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William E. Moerner
Born: 24 June 1953, Pleasanton, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy."
Prize share: 1/3
W. E. Moerner was born in Pleasanton, California, but grew up in Texas. After studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 1982 he received his doctorate from Cornell. He then worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California until 1995. After three years at the University of California at San Diego, he moved to Stanford University in California. He has been a visiting professor at ETH Zurich and at Harvard University. W. E. Moerner is married and has one son.
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.
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