Theodor Hänsch receives honorary doctorate from ETH Zurich

The award honours his significant scientific achievements in the field of quantum optics and laser physics.

November 23, 2022

Theodor Hänsch, Emeritus Director and Head of the Department of Laser Spectroscopy at MPQ, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH). The award was conferred on him on 19 November 2022, the anniversary of the university.  Theodor Hänsch receives the honorary doctorate “in recognition of his outstanding scientific work that has had such a huge impact on the entire field of modern atomic and molecular physics, especially laser cooling of atoms, and laser-based precision spectroscopy."

"This award means a lot to me. ETH Zurich is one of the best universities in the world. In the Physics Department, I know many highly esteemed colleagues. The professors now include three of my former doctoral students," comments Theodor Hänsch on his appointment as an honorary doctor of ETH.

Theodor Hänsch, Director Emeritus at the MPQ and professor at the LMU, is considered one of the most important scientists in the field of laser physics and quantum optics. One of his most significant achievements is the invention of the laser frequency comb, which enables the precise measurement of the frequency of light waves. The frequency comb method has since established itself as a standard tool in many fields worldwide, including laser spectroscopy and metrology, as well as paving the way for new areas of research. For the development of this groundbreaking method, Theodor Hänsch, together with John L. Hall and Roy J. Glauber, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005. Theodor Hänsch made further important contributions in the field of laser cooling and laser spectroscopic measurement of simple atoms.

In his laudatory speech, the head of the Physics Department focussed on Theodor Hänsch's "passion for precision" - the title of Hänsch's Nobel Prize speech in 2005: "The search for ever greater measurement precision and an ever more precise understanding of nature - this is the constant in Theodor Hänsch's career. His tool is the laser, and today there is hardly any area of quantum optics and laser physics that he did not help to shape," explained Professor Andrey Zheludev. 

Theodor Hänsch was born in 1941 in Heidelberg, where he studied physics and completed his doctorate. For his postdoctoral studies, he moved to Stanford University and obtained his own professorship at the same university two years later, in 1973. In 1986, Theodor Hänsch became a director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics where he founded the department of Laser Spectroscopy. That same year, he accepted a chair in experimental physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. Among many other awards, Theodor Hänsch has already received honorary doctorates from the Free University of Berlin, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. 

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