Two Pioneers in Physics Named Members of Pontifical Academy of Sciences

William D. Phillips and Veerabhadran Ramanathan

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2004 ( John Paul II named two pioneers in physics as members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

They are American Professor William D. Phillips, world renowned expert on the redevelopment of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light, and Indian Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, commonly known as Ram, pioneer in the study of the greenhouse effect.

William D. Phillips was born on Nov. 5, 1948 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is the leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group of the Atomic Physics Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Physics Laboratory of Gaithersburg, Maryland, and distinguished professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan was born in Chennai, India, on Nov. 24, 1944. He has dedicated his life to studying the influence human activities on the climate and environment of our planet. He is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of California at San Diego, and director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded in Rome in 1603 with the name Academy of the Lynxes and led by famous scientist Galileo Galilei.

It is currently made up of 80 pontifical academicians named for life by the Pope after having been proposed by the academicians themselves, free of religious or political discrimination.

At present it is the only academy of sciences of a supra-national character in the world.

The academy honors pure science wherever it is found and ensures its freedom and favors research, which is the indispensable condition for scientific progress.

The Academy is governed by a president, appointed from its members by the Pope, who is helped by a scientific Council and by the Chancellor. The president reports directly to the Holy Father.

The current president is Nicola Babibbo, professor of physics at Rome’s La Sapienza University, and former president of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. The Chancellor is Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

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