Public Release: 

2007 AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize Awarded to Burton Richter

American Association for the Advancement of Science

BOSTON -- Burton Richter, a Nobel laureate in physics and former director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, has been awarded the 2007 AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize for his outstanding contributions to science and its use in shaping of public policy.

The prize selection committee praised Richter for "his world-class contributions to research, successful management of a leading scientific laboratory, and his unrelenting work (much of it behind the scenes) on behalf of science and its responsible use in shaping public policy."

Richter shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1976 for his co-discovery of a subatomic particle, called the J/psi, that helped verify the existence of the charmed quark and bolstered the theoretical picture - called the Standard Model - that explains nature's fundamental particles and how they interact.

Richter was director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) from 1984 to 1999. He is now director emeritus of SLAC, Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences Emeritus at Stanford University, and senior fellow at the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Since stepping down as director of SLAC, Richter has devoted increasing time to issues related to energy and sustainable development. He is chairing a new American Physical Society panel on energy efficiency and is writing a book on energy and global climate change. He serves on the board of directors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government.

"Burton Richter has been a strong presence in American science for many years, both as a world-class researcher and as a tireless advocate on the value of science for the economic and intellectual well-being of the nation," said Alan I. Leshner, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of Science.

The Abelson Prize was inspired by Philip Hauge Abelson, who served as long-time senior adviser to AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and editor of the Association's journal, Science. Abelson, who also served as president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, died 1 August 2004, following more than 60 years of service to science and society.

The prize is awarded annually to either a public servant in recognition of sustained exceptional contributions to advancing science, or to a scientist whose career has been distinguished both for scientific achievement and for other notable services to the scientific community. The Prize was established in 1985 by the AAAS Board of Directors and consists of a plaque and an honorarium of $5,000. The prize will be awarded to Richter during a 16 February ceremony at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

Among Richter's many other honors are membership in the National Academy of Sciences, fellow status in the AAAS, the American Physical Society (where he also has served as president), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and is a winner of the Department of Energy's E.O. Lawrence Medal.

He also has served on the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board; the JASON Group; the General Motors Science Advisory Committee; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Advisory Board, among others. He was an early proponent of increased federal funding for physical sciences as part of an effort to sustain American economic competitiveness. He also played a leading role in getting the private sector involved in innovation and competitiveness issues.

In his physics career, Richter has more than 300 publications in high-energy physics, accelerators and colliding beam systems. He received a B.S. (1952) and Ph.D. (1956), both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and accepted a position at Stanford's High Energy Physics Laboratory upon completing his doctorate. At Stanford, he built a particle accelerator called SPEAR (Stanford Positron-Electron Asymmetric Ring) with the help of David Ritson and the support of the old U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. His team used the machine to discover a subatomic particle in 1974 which they called psi particle. A team led by Samuel Ting at Brookhaven National Laboratory made the same discovery independently and called it the J particle. Richter and Ting jointly were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work.


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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