Richard L. Garwin receives the National Medal of Science

Cited, in part, for his work on magnetic resonance techniques

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Yorktown Heights, NY, USA - 27 Oct 2003: The White House recently announced that Richard L. Garwin, an IBM Fellow Emeritus and internationally renowned physicist, is to receive the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for the fields of science and engineering. Garwin is being honored for his research and discoveries in physics and for his contributions to national security. Cited among his contributions is his work on nuclear magnetic resonance techniques, which are used in today’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. The medal will be presented at a White House ceremony on November 6.

Garwin joined IBM in 1952 at the Watson Laboratory in New York City and began working with magnetic resonance in 1953. At the time, he was studying liquid and solid helium 3 and magnetic resonance was the tool used to study their diffusion. With the "spin echo" technique of nuclear magnetic resonance, a magnetic field with a strong gradient (variation of field over the sample) would allow Garwin and his team to measure the diffusion. The observed shape of the spin echo fit the shape of the helium sample and from that they were able to determine the gradient and hence the diffusion over a broad range of temperatures and pressures. Their data showed that diffusion in solid helium 3 continued unchanged at the lowest temperatures reached. “Since we were doing this work at IBM,” he said, “we tried to find a way for this to be useful.” Garwin and several others at the lab showed that the spin-echo techiques could serve as a computer memory, but it was not competitive for that purpose. Fortunately, though, his inventions and patents in magnetic resonance turned out to be very useful for magnetic resonance imaging in medicine.

He worked in many different areas at IBM, including computer technology, communication systems, low-temperature physics, nonconservation of parity and the detection of gravitational radiation. In addition to the work described above, Garwin also played a crucial role in developing laser printers and touchscreen monitors for IBM in the 1970s.

"In his long and incredibly productive career, Richard Garwin has made brilliant contributions to science and to technology,” said Thomas Theis, director of Physical Sciences for IBM Research. “His insights have enabled IBM products, enhanced national security and benefited society. We at IBM are thrilled to see Dr. Garwin receive the National Medal of Science for his scientific and technical insights into magnetic resonance and its uses in medicine."

During his career with IBM, Garwin divided his time between those corporate responsibilities and his work as an expert in intelligence and on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and defenses for the United States government. He has conducted studies on anti-submarine warfare, sensor systems, military and civil aircraft, and satellite and strategic systems for the purpose of assessing capabilities and improving the systems. For example, he contributed to the first U.S. photographic reconnaissance satellite program that returned three million feet of film from almost 100 successful flights from 1960 to 1972 and also to the current electro-optical imaging satellites.

His contributions to areas as diverse as high-speed laser printing, superconducting computing, satellites and arms control have been described by Nobel prize-winner Georges Charpak as "examples of the work of a highly talented scientist who also applies his talents to the resolution of society's problems with a remarkable independence of spirit." That work is continuing, as evidenced by the fact that his most recent patents include techniques for controlling the distortion of fingerprint images and detecting explosives in land mines and baggage.

Since his official retirement from IBM in 1993, Garwin has continued to be active as a proponent of strategic nuclear arms reduction, writing numerous articles and speeches on the subject. “Dick Garwin is a national resource. He possesses a truly original, creative intellect wrapped inside a caring humanist,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The National Medal of Science honors individuals in a variety of fields for pioneering scientific research that has led to a better understanding of the world around us, as well as to the innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. The National Science Foundation administers the award, established by Congress in 1959. When the President confers the awards, 409 distinguished scientists and engineers will have received the medal. For more information about the National Medal of Science visit Previous IBM recipients are:

Richard L. Garwin received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1949. He joined IBM in 1952 at the Watson Laboratory in New York City. From 1965-1966, he served as Director of Applied Research at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he still maintains an office. He holds 44 U.S. patents. He has taught at Columbia, Harvard and Cornell Universities, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many other organizations. From 1994 - 2001, he also chaired the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board at the Department of State. Garwin was previously awarded the Enrico Fermi Award by President Clinton and the Department of Energy for his many contributions to national security and arms control and for his achievements in nuclear and particle physics.

Comments from Dr. Garwin on his career and winning the National Medal of Science:

I have greatly enjoyed the scientific and technical work recognized by the National Medal of Science. My research in Physics-- on superconductors, liquid and solid helium, particle physics, and gravity waves-- was done during the 40 years I was employed by IBM. There my principal collaborators were Haskell A. Reich and James L. Levine. My best known work in particle physics was shared with Leon M. Lederman.

My technical contributions to national security would not have borne fruit had it not been for courageous and perceptive government officials in the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, CIA, Air Force, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). My many years as a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee that met two days each month, and as chair or member of several of its panels with a similar commitment of effort, were very rewarding in the quality and dedication of my colleagues. Much of our advice was ignored, but enough was accepted (sometimes after 10 or 20 years) to repay the effort.

Policy recommendations with a strong technical component, such as the GPS satellite navigation system, various approaches to precision munitions, to locating and characterizing radio and radar emitters, and to obtaining highly detailed optical and radar images were ultimately realized. In contrast, our 1971 proposal for an all-satellite system for air-traffic control (communication, navigation, and independent position monitoring) still lanquishes.

Over the years I have been impressed by the many instances in which tools and techniques developed for pure physics research have been applicable to important problems in industry and in government programs.

For more than a half century I have been involved in challenging problems and have worked with many admirable people. Thanks to all who have worked with me.

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