Robert B. Laughlin

Robert Betts Laughlin
Born (1950-11-01) November 1, 1950
Visalia, California, United States
Nationality United States
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions Stanford
Alma mater MIT
University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral advisor John D. Joannopoulos
Known for Quantum Hall effect
Notable awards E. O. Lawrence Award (1984)
Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1986)
Nobel Prize in physics (1998)
The Franklin Medal (1998)

Robert Betts Laughlin (born November 1, 1950) is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Physics[1] and Applied Physics at Stanford University. Along with Horst L. Störmer of Columbia University and Daniel C. Tsui of Princeton University, he was awarded a share of the 1998 Nobel Prize in physics for their explanation of the fractional quantum Hall effect.

Laughlin was born in Visalia, California. He earned a B.A. in mathematics at UC Berkeley in 1972, and his Ph.D. in physics in 1979 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as the president of KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea.


In 1983, Laughlin was first to provide a many body wave function, now known as the Laughlin wavefunction, for the fractional quantum hall effect, which was able to correctly explain the fractionalized charge observed in experiments. This state has since been interpreted to be a Bose–Einstein condensate.[2]

View on climate change

Laughlin's view of climate change is that it may be important, but the future is impossible to change, since any effort to slow the rate of fossil fuel usage will "leave the end result exactly the same: all the fossil fuel that used to be in the ground is now in the air, and none is left to burn", and since the climactic/geologic recovery process "will take an eternity from the human perspective, but it will be only a brief instant of geologic time.". He writes "The geologic record suggests that climate ought not to concern us too much when we’re gazing into the energy future, not because it's unimportant, but because it's beyond our power to control." [3]



Laughlin (right) in the White House together with other 1998 US Nobel Prize Winners and the President Bill Clinton

Laughlin published a book entitled A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down in 2005. The book argues for emergence as a replacement for reductionism, in addition to general commentary on hot-topic issues.


  1. Robert Laughlin – Stanford Physics Faculty. Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  2. "Nobel Focus: Current for a Small Charge". Physics Focus. 2 (18). 1998. doi:10.1103/PhysRevFocus.2.18.
  3. "What the Earth Knows" – Robert B. Laughlin. The American Scholar. Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
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