Born: 23 October 1905, Zurich, Switzerland
Died: 10 September 1983, Zurich, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements and discoveries in connection therewith"
Field: nuclear physics
Prize share: 1/2
Protons and neutrons in nuclei act like small, rotating magnets. Atoms and molecules therefore align in a magnetic field. Radio waves can disturb their direction of rotation, but only in certain stages, in accordance with quantum mechanics. When the atoms return to their original positions, they emit electromagnetic radio waves with frequencies characteristic of different elements and isotopes. In 1946, Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell developed methods for precise measurement, making it possible to study different materials' compositions.