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William Alfred Fowler

Willie Fowler
Born (1911-08-09)August 9, 1911
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died March 14, 1995(1995-03-14) (aged 83)
Pasadena, California
Alma mater Caltech (PhD)
Doctoral advisor Charles Christian Lauritsen
Doctoral students F. Curtis Michel
Influences Fred Hoyle
Notable awards Barnard Medal for Meritorious Service to Science (1965)
Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics (1970)
Vetlesen Prize (1973)
National Medal of Science (1974)
Eddington Medal (1978)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1983)

William Alfred "Willie" Fowler (; August 9, 1911 – March 14, 1995) was an American nuclear physicist, later astrophysicist, who, with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics.


  • Biography 1
  • Publications 2
    • Obituaries 2.1
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fowler moved with his family to Lima, Ohio, a steam railroad town, at the age of two. He graduated from the Ohio State University, where he was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and went on to receive a Ph.D. in nuclear physics at the California Institute of Technology. Although an experimental nuclear physicist, Fowler's most famous paper was "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars", coauthored with E. Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, and Fred Hoyle, published in 1957 with a group led by Fred Hoyle, the initiator of that theory about the natural history of our chemical elements.[1] The paper categorized the nuclear processes for origin of all but the lightest chemical elements in stars. It is widely known as the B2FH paper.

Fowler's career first made him a famous nuclear physicist. He succeeded Charles Lauritsen as director of the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory at Caltech, and was himself later succeeded by Steven E. Koonin. Fowler was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Gerald Ford.[2] It is the highest national honor in science that an American can receive.

Fowler won the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society in 1963, the Vetlesen Prize in 1973, the Eddington Medal in 1978, the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1979, and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions of importance in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe (shared with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar).

He was the doctoral advisor for Arthur B. McDonald, who would later go on to win the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics.

A lifelong fan of steam locomotives, he owned several working models of various sizes, one pictured here.[3] He died in Pasadena, California.


  • Fowler, W.A.; Lauritsen, C.C; Lauritsen, T. (1948). "Gamma radiation from light nuclei under proton bombardment".  
  • Cook, C.W.; Fowler, W.A.; Lauritsen, C.C.; Lauritsen, T. (1957). "B12, C12 and Red Giants".  
  • Clayton, Donald D.; Fowler, W.A..; Hull, T.E.; Zimmerman, B.A. (1961). "Neutron capture chains in heavy element synthesis".  
  • Burbidge, E. M.; Burbidge, G. R.; Fowler, W. A.; Hoyle, F. (1957). "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars".  
  • Fowler, W. A. (1958). "Temperature and Density Conditions for Nucleogenesis by Fusion Processes in Stars".  
  • Seeger, P. A.; Fowler, W. A.; Clayton, Donald D. (1965). "Nucleosynthesis of heavy elements by neutron capture".  
  • Bodansky, D.; Clayton, Donald D.; Fowler, W.A. (1968). "Nucleosynthesis during silicon burning".  
  • Holmes, J.A.; Woosley, S.E.; Fowler, W.A.; Zimmerman, B.A. (1976). "Tables of thermonuclear-reaction-rate for neutron-induced reactions on heavy nuclei".  
  • Caughlan, G.R.; Fowler, W.A.; Zimmerman, B.A. (1975). "Thermonuclear reaction rates,II".  


  • Dicke, W. (16 March 1995). "William A. Fowler, 83, Astrophysicist, Dies".  
  • Burbidge, G. (1996). "William Alfred Fowler, 1911 - 14 March 1995". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 37: 89.  


  1. ^ Burbidge, E. M.; Burbidge, G. R.; Fowler, W. A.; Hoyle, F. (1957). "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars".  
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External links

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