Born: 13 January 1960, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, VA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy"
Field: physical chemistry
Prize share: 1/3
In normal microscopes the wavelength of light sets a limit to the level of detail possible. However this limitation can be circumvented by methods that make use of fluorescence, a phenomenon in which certain substances become luminous after having been exposed to light. Around 2000, Eric Betzig and William E. Moerner helped create a method in which fluorescence in individual molecules is steered by light. An image of very high resolution is achieved by combining images in which different molecules are activated. This makes it possible to track processes occurring inside living cells.