John J. Hopﬁeld, the Howard A. Prior Professor in the Life Sciences, Emeritus, shares the inaugural 2023 International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Medal for the Physics of Life. The medal was awarded jointly to Hopfield and to Frank Jülicher, director at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems.
John J. Hopﬁeld, the Howard A. Prior Professor in the Life Sciences, Emeritus, Princeton University, Department of Molecular Biology
Photo by Mary Waltham
Hopfield's citation reads, "For his pioneering contributions to a wide range of biological physics, including cooperativity and electron transfer in proteins, proofreading in molecular information transmission, and concepts and applications of nonlinear dynamics of neural networks, which set a foundation for the modern engagement of theoretical physics with the phenomena of life."
The IUPAP Medal for the Physics of Life is a new award of the IUPAP, presented by its C6 Commission on Biological Physics every three years, at the IUPAP International Conference on Biological Physics (ICBP). The Award, consisting of a gilded medal and a certificate, recognizes outstanding achievements in Biological Physics, regardless of the country where the research has been done, the age, or the employment status of the nominee.
John Hopfield received a Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University in 1958. He worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories, École Normale Supérieure, University of California at Berkeley, and California Institute of Technology. Hopfield joined the Princeton University Department of Molecular Biology faculty in 1997 and transferred to emeritus status in 2008. His prior awards include the IUPAP Boltzmann Medal (2022), the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics (2019), and the Dirac Medal from the International Center for Theoretical Physics (2001). He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences USA since 1973. A personal memoir, "Now What?" offers perspective on Hopfield's career and motivations.
The IUPAP was established in 1922 in Brussels with 13 Member countries and the first General Assembly was held in 1923 in Paris. It currently has 60 country members.