Theodor W. Hänsch


Interview, July 2008

Interview with the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Theodor W. Hänsch, at the 58th Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, July 2008. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief of

Theodor Hänsch explains how his childhood passion for chemistry turned to physics after an explosive experiment, why he became an experimental rather than a theoretical physicist (3:22), his first encounter with a laser (7:10), how much of his work has revolved around tools and gadgets (14:42), the commercial applications of his research (25:36), and the advice he would give to students embarking on scientific careers (34:15).

Read the interview

Interview, December 2005

Interview with the 2005 Nobel Laureates in Physics, Roy J. Glauber, John L. Hall and Theodor W. Hänsch, 6 December 2005. The interviewer is Joanna Rose, science writer.

The Laureates talk about how they started in science, the Nobel Prize (5:15), their discoveries and the frequency comb technique (11:57), differences in doing science in the USA and Europe (17:58), their theories about light (20:58), and problems still to be solved (27:45).

Nobel Minds 2005

The Nobel Laureates of 2005 met at the Bernadotte Library in Stockholm in December 2005 for the traditional round-table discussion and TV show ‘Nobel Minds’. The programme presenter is Nik Gowing, principal programme anchor for the BBC’s international television news channel BBC World. Among other things the Laureates talk about competition versus co-operation and the need of mentoring in scientific research.

Interview, October 2005

Telephone interview with Professor Theodor W. Hänsch after the announcement of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics, 4 October 2005. The interviewer is Joanna Rose, science writer.

Interview transcript

– Yes?

– Hello. My name’s Joanna Rose. I am making a recording for which is the official Website of the Nobel Foundation.

– Ah, that sounds important. However, I’m just about to leave for the airport; my driver is waiting downstairs. So this is not the way just now… I’m going to Berkeley, California.

– But this is just like three minutes …

– Okay, okay.

– I just want to congratulate you.

– Thank you very much.

– Did you expect it?

– Well, of course, one cannot expect something like that. I had a little spark of hope, I have to admit, though.

– Every year? Or this year?

– For a number of years.

– How many years?

– Oh …! But no, of course, when the news comes, it’s totally unexpected. And I’m still up in the clouds; I haven’t settled down yet.

– You’ll be in the plane …

– Right, right!

– What does it mean to you, to get the Prize?

– Well, I mean, it’s the ultimate recognition that scientists can hope to receive. It’s recognition not just for my person, but, I think, for our entire team, for the organisations that have supported our work. And I think for Germany it is certainly a sign that, hopefully, will attract more young people into science, because for a while it looked like we were out of luck with modern Nobel Prizes. Of course, in the early days, Germany did pretty well.

– Yes. Do you think that the Prize is just a reward, or can you …?

– Well, it depends on what one does with it. Certainly there will be more opportunities to give opinions outside my area of expertise. I will try to avoid that! And I will try to use it as a means to be able to continue our research, hopefully beyond my official retirement age in Germany.

– Is there any special field that you would like to …?

– Well, for me, the field of light, of lasers, of atoms, molecules, has been an unending series of surprises, and I can’t think of a better field. But I think we will, hopefully, find new things, in the future.

– How will you celebrate the Prize?

– Well, we’ve already celebrated in a rushed ceremony, because I have to leave for the airport and, as I said, the driver is waiting downstairs. So I am, just now, going on a trip to California. And maybe over there we will continue to celebrate in a circle of friends who are all gathering to honour Charlie Townes on his ninetieth birthday.

– Ah, I see. Thank you very much for this conversation.

– Okay. You’re welcome.

– Hope to see you in Stockholm. Bye-bye.

– Bye-bye.

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