Sam Edwards (physicist)

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Samuel Frederick Edwards
Born(1928-02-01)1 February 1928
Swansea, Wales
Died7 May 2015(2015-05-07) (aged 87)
Cambridge, England
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Harvard University
Known forpath integral formulation
polymer physics
spin glass
granular material
AwardsMaxwell Medal and Prize (1974)
Davy Medal (1984)
Boltzmann medal (1995)
Royal Medal (2001)
Dirac Medal (2005)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Doctoral advisorJulian Schwinger
Doctoral studentsElliott H. Lieb
Monica Olvera de la Cruz
Michael Cates
Nigel Goldenfeld

Sir Samuel Frederick Edwards FLSW FRS (1 February 1928 – 7 May 2015), "universally known as 'Sam',"[1] was a Welsh physicist.[2] The Sam Edwards Medal and Prize is named in his honour.[3]

Early life and studies[edit]

Sir Samuel was born on 1 February 1928 in Swansea, Wales, the son of Richard and Mary Jane Edwards. He was educated at the Bishop Gore School, Swansea, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, the University of Manchester, and at Harvard University, in the United States.[2] He wrote his thesis under Julian Schwinger on the structure of the electron, and subsequently developed the functional integral form of field theory.

Academic research[edit]

Edwards' name on Staircase L at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in 2010.

Edwards' work in condensed matter physics started in 1958 with a paper[pubs 1] which showed that statistical properties of disordered systems (glasses, gels etc.) could be described by the Feynman diagram and path integral methods invented in quantum field theory. During the following 35 years Edwards worked in the theoretical study of complex materials, such as polymers, gels, colloids and similar systems. His seminal paper[pubs 2] came in 1965 which "in one stroke founded the modern quantitative understanding of polymer matter."[1] Pierre-Gilles de Gennes notably extended Edwards' 1965 seminal work, ultimately leading to de Gennes' 1991 Nobel Prize in Physics.[1]

The Doi-Edwards theory of polymer melt viscoelasticity originated from an initial publication of Edwards in 1967,[pubs 3] was expanded upon by de Gennes in 1971, and was subsequently formalized through a series of publications between Edwards and Masao Doi in the late 1970s.[1]

Administrative activities and professional recognition[edit]

He was Chairman of the Science Research Council 1973-1977 and between 1984-1995 was Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge University. He was a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Past President of Cambridge Society for the Application of Research.

Edwards was knighted in 1975. Awards presented to him include the Davy Medal (1984) and the Royal Medal (2001) of the Royal Society,[4] the Boltzmann medal of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (1995),[5] and the Dirac Medal of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (2005). He was also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and he held an honorary degree (Doctor of Science) from the University of Bath (1978).

Personal life[edit]

In 1953 Sir Sam married Merriell E.M. Bland, with whom he had three daughters and a son. His relaxations were gardening and chamber music. Sir Samuel died in Cambridge on 7 May 2015.[1][6]


  1. ^ Edwards, S.F. (1958). "A new method for the evaluation of electric conductivity in metals" (PDF). Philosophical Magazine. 3 (33): 1020–31. Bibcode:1958PMag....3.1020E. doi:10.1080/14786435808243244. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2007.
  2. ^ Edwards, S.F. (1965). "The statistical mechanics of polymers with excluded volume". Proceedings of the Physical Society. 85 (4): 613–624. doi:10.1088/0370-1328/85/4/301.
  3. ^ Edwards, S.F. (1967). "The statistical mechanics of polymerized material". Proceedings of the Physical Society. 92 (1): 9–16. Bibcode:1967PPS....92....9E. doi:10.1088/0370-1328/92/1/303.


  1. ^ a b c d e Goldenfeld, Nigel (23 December 2015). "Samuel Frederick Edwards: Founder of modern polymer and soft matter theory". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113 (1): 10–11. Bibcode:2016PNAS..113...10G. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523001113. PMC 4711878. PMID 26699498.
  2. ^ a b Donald, Athene (12 May 2015). "The birth of soft matter physics, the physics of the everyday". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "Sam Edwards Medal and Prize". Institute of Physics. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  4. ^ Warner, Mark (22 February 2017). "Sir Sam Edwards. 1 February 1928 — 7 July 2015". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 63: 243–271. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2016.0028. ISSN 0080-4606.
  5. ^ Samuel Edwards: Boltzmann Medallist 1995, IUPAP Commission on Statistical Physics, archived from the original on 17 October 2013, retrieved 20 February 2013
  6. ^ "Obituary Notice" (6388). Cambridge University Reporter. 28 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Paul M. Goldbart and Nigel Goldenfeld, David Sherrington (eds.) (2004). Stealing the gold: a celebration of the pioneering physics of Sam Edwards. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 0-19-852853-1.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Sherwood, Martin (22 November 1973). "A man for difficult problems". New Scientist. 60 (873): 538–9. Retrieved 11 July 2016 – via Google Books. Professor Sam Edwards, who recently became chairman of the Science Research Council, describes himself as someone who has always had a taste for difficult problems. Recently, he talked to Martin Sherwood about some of the problems he has tackled in chemistry and physics, and some of those he will now have to tackle as a full-time administrator.

External links[edit]