Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
William Alfred Fowler
Born: 9 August 1911, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Died: 14 March 1995, Pasadena, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for his theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions of importance in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe."
Prize share: 1/2
Stars in the universe form from clouds of gas and dust. When these clouds are pulled together by gravitational force, energy is released in the form of heat. And when a high enough temperature is reached, reactions among the atomic nuclei in the star's interior begin. These reactions are what causes radiation from stars. In the 1950s William Fowler showed how these nuclear reactions also account for how various elements are formed. These processes have created the elements that make up our earth and other heavenly bodies in the universe.