Michael Fisher

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Michael Fisher
Michael Ellis Fisher

(1931-09-03)3 September 1931
Fyzabad, Colony of Trinidad and Tobago
Died26 November 2021(2021-11-26) (aged 90)[1]
Alma materKing's College London
Known forTheory of phase transitions
FKT algorithm
AwardsIrving Langmuir Award (1971)
Wolf Prize (1980)
Boltzmann Medal (1983)
NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing (1983)
Lars Onsager Prize (1995)
Royal Medal (2005)
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2009)
Scientific career
FieldsStatistical physics
InstitutionsKing's College London
Cornell University
University of Maryland, College Park
Doctoral advisorDonald MacCrimmon MacKay
Doctoral students

Michael Ellis Fisher (3 September 1931 – 26 November 2021) was an English physicist, as well as chemist and mathematician, known for his many seminal contributions to statistical physics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena. He was the Horace White Professor of Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics at Cornell University.[2] Later he moved to the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, where he was University System of Maryland Regents Professor, a Distinguished University Professor and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher.[1]

Academic background[edit]

Michael E. Fisher received his BSc from King's College London in 1951, where he also earned a PhD in physics in 1957, studying analogue computing under Donald MacCrimmon MacKay.[3] He was appointed to the faculty as a lecturer the following year, becoming a full professor in 1965.

In 1966 he moved to Cornell University where he became professor of chemistry, physics, and mathematics, chairing the chemistry department from 1975 to 1978. In 1971, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1973, he and Jack Kiefer were the first two Cornell faculty elected as Horace White Professors.[4] Fisher was elected Secretary of the Cornell University Senate. In 1983, he was elected a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, chemistry section, as he had remained a citizen of the United Kingdom.[5][2]

Since 1987 he was at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. He retired in 2012.

Fisher lived in Ithaca, N.Y., and subsequently in Maryland, with his wife Sorrel. They had four children. Two of them are also theoretical physicists: Daniel S. Fisher is professor of Applied Physics at Stanford,[6] while Matthew P. A. Fisher is professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.[7]

Wolf Prize[edit]

Fisher together with Kenneth G. Wilson and Leo Kadanoff won the Wolf Prize in 1980. The prize was awarded with the following comment:[8]"Professor Michael E. Fisher has been an extraordinarily productive scientist, and one still at the height of his powers and creativity. Fisher's major contributions have been in equilibrium statistical mechanics, and have spanned the full range of that subject. He was mainly responsible for bringing together, and teaching a common language to chemists and physicists working on diverse problems of phase transitions."

Boltzmann Medal[edit]

In 1983, Fisher was awarded the Boltzmann Medal "for his many illuminating contributions to phase transitions and critical phenomena during the past 25 years"[9]

Lars Onsager Prize[edit]

Fisher won the Lars Onsager Prize in 1995 "for his numerous and seminal contributions to statistical mechanics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena, scaling laws, critical exponents, finite size effects, and the application of the renormalization group to many of the above problems" (official laudatio).

Award and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b Suplee, Anne (29 April 2020). "Michael E. Fisher, 1931-2021". UMD Physics. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d "Faculty Notes". Cornell Arts & Sciences Newsletter. Cornell University. Fall 1983. p. 7.
  3. ^ Domb, Cyril (15 September 1991). "Michael Fisher at King's College London". Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications. 177 (1): 1–21. Bibcode:1991PhyA..177....1D. doi:10.1016/0378-4371(91)90127-X. ISSN 0378-4371.
  4. ^ 2 Professors Are Named To Horace White Chairs, Cornell Chronicle, vol. 4, no. 19, 22 February 1973. Page 3. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  5. ^ "Michael E. Fisher". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  6. ^ "Stanford University Department of Applied Physics". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  7. ^ KITP at UCSB
  8. ^ Simply-Smart. "קנת ג' ווילסון (Kenneth G. Wilson)". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  9. ^ "The Boltzmann Award". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Faculty Notes". Cornell Arts & Sciences Newsletter. Cornell University. February 1980. p. 7.
  12. ^ "Faculty Notes". Cornell Arts & Sciences Newsletter. Cornell University. Fall 1982. p. 7.
  13. ^ "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  14. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  15. ^ "Michael E Fisher". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  16. ^ BBVA Foundation (15 April 2010). "Richard N. Zare and Michael E. Fisher, 2009 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge in Basic Sciences". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  17. ^ Interview with M.E. Fisher by the Spanish Physical Society
  18. ^ "Institute for Physical Science and Technology". Retrieved 13 September 2016.


External links[edit]