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The Religious Affiliation of Nobel Prize-winning physicist
William D. Phillips
awarded Nobel Prize for his contributions to laser cooling

William D. Phillips, a devout Methodist, received a Nobel Prize for his contributions to laser cooling.

From autobiography written by William D. Phillips on official Nobel Prize website (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1997/phillips-autobio.html; viewed 19 April 2007):

I was born on 5 November 1948 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania...

My father and mother were each the first in their families to go to college, each attending Juniata College, a small school in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, founded and strongly influenced by the pacifist Church of the Brethren. My father and mother graduated from Juniata in 1930 and 1936, respectively, but never met until a Juniata professor who knew them both suggested to my father that he might call a young Juniata alumna and ask her out. This Italian Catholic young woman and this Welsh-American Methodist young man met, fell in love, got married, earned Masters degrees and became professional social workers in the hard coal country of Pennsylvania.

I grew up surrounded by family and friends, church and school, and physical and mental activity. I clearly remember the value my parents placed on reading and education. ...In 1956, my family moved from Kingston to Butler, near Pittsburgh. I remember that during that time I decided that science was going to be my life work, and sometime during the late 1950s, I came to appreciate, in a very incomplete and naive way, the simplicity and beauty of physics.

My brother Tom was born in 1957 - a concrete confirmation, my sister and I believed, of the power of prayer. We had been praying for a sibling, unaware that our parents could decide, and had decided, that two children were enough. Apparently our prayers were effective. The result was a thrill and a blessing for all of us...

...While my parents were not directly involved in my scientific interests, they tolerated my experiments, even when the circuit breakers all tripped because of my overloads. They were always encouraging, and there was never any lack of intellectual stimulation. Dinner table conversations included discussions of politics, history, sociology, and current events. We children were heard and respected, but we had to compete for the privilege of expressing our opinions. In these discussions our parents transmitted important values about respect for other people, for their cultures, their ethnic backgrounds, their faith and beliefs, even when very different from our own. We learned concern for others who were less fortunate than we were. These values were supported and strengthened by a maturing religious faith...

...In 1979, shortly after Jane and I moved to Gaithersburg, we joined Fairhaven United Methodist Church. We had not been regular church-goers during our years at MIT, but Ed and Jean Williams invited us to Fairhaven and there we found a congregation whose ethnic and racial diversity offered an irresistible richness of worship experience. Later that year, our first daughter, Catherine, now known as Caitlin, was born. In 1981 Christine was born. Our children have been an unending source of blessing, adventure and challenge. Their arrival, at a time when both Jane and I were trying to establish ourselves in new jobs, required a delicate balancing of work, home, and church life. Somehow, our faith and our youthful energy got us through that period.

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Webpage created 19 April 2007. Last modified 19 April 2007.
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