Dr. Edward M. Purcell

Gerhard Gade University Professor, Emeritus
Harvard University

Edward M. Purcell

Known chiefly for his work in nuclear magnetism and radio astronomy, Edward M. Purcell began his university career as a student in electrical engineering at Purdue where he received his BSEE in 1933. He continued his studies at Technische Hochschule Karlsruhe and received his PhD from Harvard University in 1938.

Now Gerhard Gade University Professor, Emeritus, he has spent most of his professional life at Harvard. One exception occurred during World War II, when Purcell headed a group which developed advanced microwave radar at the Radiation Laboratory at MIT.

In 1952, Purcell and Felix Bloch of Stanford shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their independent discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, a technique now widely used in chemistry and in medical imaging. Purcell's most recent work has been in astrophysics and biophysics, the former concerned with the interstellar medium in our galaxy and the latter with bacterial locomotion and chemotaxis.

Purcell has served on numerous national committees and was a member of the President's Scientific Advisory Committee under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. He served as President of the American Physical Society in 1970.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also a foreign member of the Royal Society of London. An innovative teacher, Purcell received the Oersted Medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1968 and the National Medal of Science in 1979. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Purdue University in 1953.