Eric Cornell was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1961. He received his B.S. in Physics with distinction from Stanford University in 1985 and Ph.D. in Physcis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Rowland Institute at Harvard University. He is currently a Professor at the University of Colorado and Senior Physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at Boulder. His laboratory is located at JILA.
Professor Cornell, jointly with Carl E. Wieman, succeeded in achieving a new state of matter known as Bose Einestein Condensate. This is an extreme state of matter that no one else has been able to accomplish, although the quest to achieve it was started more than 70 years ago by Satyendra Bose and Albert Einestein. In 1995, Cornell and Wieman (and independently Wolfgang Kettrle at MIT) were able to do so, using very advanced methods of magnetically trapping and cooling dilute gases of alkali atoms, such as rubidium-87 gas, to a temperature of less than 170 billionths of a degree above the absolute zero (a hypothetical temperature at which matter neither emits nor absorbs energy). This discovery, which was preceded by clever innovations of magnetic trapping, not only deepens our understanding of matter in a new state at the lowest temperature ever achieved, but also opens an exciting new field of research into the possible applications of that state. As a result of this work, Wieman and Cornell shared with Kettrle the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics. Five years earlier, Cornel and Weiman also shared the King Faisal International Prize for Science. In addition, Cornell recieved numerous other awards including the R. W. Wood Prize (OSA), Lorentz Medal (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), Rabi Prize (APS), Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physcis, Alan Waterman Award (National Science Foundation), U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal, Fritz London Prize in Low Temperature Physics, Newcomb-Cleveland Prize (AAAS), Samuel Wesley Stratton Award, Carl Zeis Award and Presidential Early Career Award.
Professor Cornell’s scientific contributions appeared in a large number of scientific papers, presentations and invited lectures. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the American Physical Society (APS), and Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
In 2004, he contracted a life-threatening infection known as necrotizing fscilitis, or flesh-eating disease, and his left arm and shoulder were amputated in order to stop the spread of the infection and save his life. In 2005, he returned to his laboratory to work part time.