John Hopfield, Princeton’s Howard A. Prior Professor in the Life Sciences, Emeritus, won the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics “for applying concepts of theoretical physics to provide new insights on important biological questions in a variety of areas, including neuroscience and genetics, with significant impact on machine learning, an area of computer science.” Hopfield joined Princeton as a professor of physics in 1964, and he was also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study from July 2010 to August 2013.
Hopfield has made major contributions to physics, chemistry and biology. He has demonstrated how modeling biological processes in the brain can be used to solve complex computational problems. His pioneering work in the early 1980s led to the modern era of neural networks. His research examined issues such as “thinking” and “perception” and the intersection between these two ideas. He has received many awards and honors, including the MacArthur Award, the Dirac Medal and the Buckley Prize.
The Franklin Institute, founded in honor of Benjamin Franklin, has recognized scientists and engineers for 194 years. In 1998, the program was reorganized under the umbrella of the six Benjamin Franklin Medals: Computer and Cognitive Science, Earth and Environmental Science, Electrical Engineering, Life Science, Materials Engineering, and Physics. Hopfield and his fellow laureates will receive their awards on April 11, 2019, in the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute.