William Fowler and Elements in the Stars

Resources with Additional Information

‘William A. Fowler ... shared the 1983 Nobel Prize in physics for his research into the creation of chemical elements inside stars ... . During his career in nuclear physics and nuclear astrophysics, which spanned more that 60 years, Fowler was primarily concerned with studies of fusion reactions--how the nuclei of lighter chemical elements fuse to create the heavier ones in a process known as nucleosynthesis. In 1957, Fowler coauthored ... the seminal paper "Synthesis of the Elements in the Stars", [which] showed that all of the elements from carbon to uranium could be produced by nuclear processes in stars, starting only with the hydrogen and helium produced in the Big Bang.

This work, much of it carried out with colleagues at Caltech's Kellogg Radiation Laboratory, put Fowler and his collaborators at the forefront of some of the most central issues in modern physics and cosmology: the formation of the chemical elements inside stars; the Big Bang origin of the universe; and the current Dark Matter debate over what most of the universe is made of.

"It is a remarkable fact that humans, on the basis of experiments and measurements carried out in the lab, are able to understand the universe in the early stages of its evolution, even during the first three minutes of its existence," observed Fowler several years ago.

Fowler's research was of two kinds: theoretical studies to calculate fusion rates for a wide variety of elements, and experiments with accelerators to guide the theoretical calculations. His research career was marked by this continual feedback between theory and experiment. Although Fowler was not directly involved in astronomy, his work had special relevance to astronomy, and astronomical observations both supported his results and often stimulated new investigations. ...

Among his many honors, Fowler received the National Medal of Science from President Gerald Ford in 1974 ... .'

- Edited excerpts from Nobel Laureate William A. Fowler ... , Caltech Media Relations


Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about William Fowler and his research is available in full-text and on the Web.


Energy Levels of Light Nuclei. III; Review of Modern Physics, Vol 22, Issue 4:291-372; October 1950

Temperature and Density Conditions for Nucleogenesis by Fusion Processes in Stars, DOE Technical Report, June 1958

Abundances of the Rare-Earth Nuclei Produced by Rapid Neutron Capture in Supernovae; Physical Review, Vol. 115, Issue 6:1410–1414; September 15, 1959

Duration of Nucleosynthesis; Physical Review Letters, Vol. 4, Issue 3:112-114; February 1, 1960

Integrated Flux Distributions in Neutron Capture in Stars, DOE Technical Report, September 23, 1965

Helium (3) Rich Solar Flares, DOE Technical Report, May 3, 1977


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