R. Hemley: a Profile

USA - USA/China

Russell Hemley and Ho-Kwang Mao

2005 Balzan Prize for Mineral Physics

For the impressive impact of their joint work leading to fundamental breakthroughs, theoretical and experimental, in the field of minerals submitted to extreme physical conditions. They have operated as a highly effective team, characterized by twenty years of research contributions at the highest level. They have developed techniques which allow them to study the behaviour of a wide range of materials, such as hydrogen, the most abundant “mineral” in the universe. Their results have deep implications for our understanding of nature.

Russell J. Hemley’s research explores the behavior of materials over a broad range of thermodynamic conditions from low to very high pressures. He began his research career in molecular spectroscopy and electronic structure theory. An interest in the effects of high pressures on materials led him to the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. There he began to apply and extend chemical physics techniques in high-pressure diamond anvil cell experiments. Since then, his research program has expanded to include high-pressure experimental and theoretical studies in condensed matter physics, earth and planetary science, and materials science. Some of his accomplishments include the discovery of new phenomena in dense hydrogen at megabar pressures; observations of unusual transformations in molecular materials and novel high-pressure molecular compounds; the creation of new superconductors, magnetic structures, glasses, and superhard materials under pressure, and the synthesis of single crystal diamond by chemical vapor deposition. He is also involved in the continued development of high-pressure techniques, including optical methods, synchrotron radiation for diffraction and spectroscopy, and transport measurements.

Russell J. Hemley grew up in California, Colorado, and Utah, and attended Wesleyan University, where he studied chemistry and philosophy (B.A., 1977). He did his graduate work in physical chemistry at Harvard University (M.A., 1980; Ph.D. 1983). After a post-doctoral fellowship in theoretical chemistry at Harvard (1983-84), he joined the Geophysical Laboratory as a Carnegie Fellow (1984-86) and Research Associate (1986-87), and became a Staff Scientist in 1987. He has been a visiting Professor at the Johns Hopkins University (1991-92) and at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Lyon (1996). He is the recipient of the 1990 Mineralogical Society of America Award, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001. He has authored on over 430 publications.

(September 2005)

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