Watt W. Webb

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Watt Wetmore Webb is known for his co-invention (with Winfried Denk and Jim Strickler) of Multiphoton microscopy in 1990.


Professor Watt W. Webb’s undergraduate studies at MIT in Business and Engineering Administration for his SB degree in 1947 led him to engineering research and development at Union Carbide Corporation Research Laboratories until 1952, then back to MIT for his ScD in Metallurgy awarded in 1955, then returning to Union Carbide for solid-state and chemical physics and as coordinator of fundamental research and then assistant director of research until he joined the Cornell University faculty of Engineering Physics in 1961, introducing experimental research in superconductivity and in continuous phase transitions. He served as director of the School of Applied and Engineering Physics from 1983 to 1989 and is presently a member of the graduate faculties of eight fields, which indicates his interdisciplinary research focus. He has directed the NIH Developmental Resource for Biophysical Imaging Opto-Electronics for the last 20 years. He is on the board of directors and executive committee of the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise, and Commercialization, is affiliated with the university's Biophysics Program, the Cornell Center for Materials Research, the Nanobiotechnology Center and serves on the Executive Committee of the Neuroscience Focus Area. He has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, a Guggenheim fellow, and a scholar in residence at the NIH Fogarty International Center for Advanced Study.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He won the APS Biological Physics Prize in 1990, the Ernst Abbe Lecture Award of the Royal Microscopical Society (UK) and Carl Zeiss (Germany) in 1997, the Michelson-Morley Award in 1999, the Rank Prize for Opto-electronics in 2000, the Jablonski Award Lecturer in 2001, was the National Lecturer of the Biophysical Society in 2002, the MIT Lord Lecturer in 2004, the Rohm and Haas Lecturer in 2005, and the Leonardo Lecturer for the Universita Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milano, Italy in 2006 and has been selected for the Ernst Abbe award of the New York Microscopy Society in 2007. He has served as chairman of the Division of Biological Physics of APS and associate editor of Physical Review Letters. He has published over 310 papers in solid state and chemical physics and in biological physics; with 22 U.S. patents plus many foreign patents. He is active as a consultant and in various national advisory committees and professional societies.

FCS and MPM[edit]

Professor Webb pioneered the techniques of Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS) in 1972[1] and Multiphoton microscopy (MPM) in 1990.[2] FCS enables single-molecule detection in solutions at nanomolar concentrations and provides temporal resolution of the dynamic processes of individual molecules signaled by their fluorescence. FCS reveals molecular mobility, conformational fluctuations and chemical reactions in solutions and allows the detection of extremely sparse molecules and particles. In situ measurements of the dynamics of fluorescence flicker by FCS, photobleaching, phototoxicity, and induced fluorescence are being used to discern dynamics of biological processes and molecular mechanisms of disease. Multiphoton excitation in laser scanning fluorescence microscopy provides for high resolution, high signal-to-noise imaging in living cells and deep in turbid tissues in vivo and significantly reduces photodamage and minimizes image degradation due to scattering and autofluorescence. His laboratory at Cornell University continues to extend the frontiers of these technologies, now for example extending MPM and FCS to imaging molecular processes within the cellular nucleus for gene expression in vivo. Recently initiated is the development of technology for introduction of MPM into Medical Endoscopy for in vivo, in situ real time diagnostics.


In 2010 Webb was awarded the Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics by the National Academy of Sciences.[3]


  1. ^ Magde D, Elson EL, Webb WW (1974). "Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. II. An experimental realization". Biopolymers. 13: 29–61. doi:10.1002/bip.1974.360130103.
  2. ^ Denk W, Strickler JH, Webb WW (1990). "Two-photon laser scanning fluorescence microscopy". Science. 248: 73–76. Bibcode:1990Sci...248...73D. doi:10.1126/science.2321027. PMID 2321027.
  3. ^ "Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011.

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