Percy Williams Bridgman
Born: 21 April 1882, Cambridge, MA, USA
Died: 20 August 1961, Randolph, NH, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the invention of an apparatus to produce extremely high pressures, and for the discoveries he made therewith in the field of high pressure physics."
Prize share: 1/1
At very high pressures, matter takes on other properties and forms than under ordinary conditions. When Percy Bridgman set out to study optical phenomena under high pressure in 1905, some of the equipment broke apart. When he was going to repair it, he came up with an idea for a sealing device that proved to be more effective than expected. This led him to further develop equipment that could produce extremely high pressures. This allowed the examination of the altered structure and properties of various substances and materials under high pressure.