Prize Recipient

Recipient Picture

Eugene N. Parker
University of Chicago


"In recognition of many fundamental contributions to space physics, plasma physics, solar physics and astrophysics for over 60 years."


Parker became interested in physics while taking a course in it in high school in Royal Oak, Michigan. A tuition scholarship lured him to Michigan State University where he graduated in 1948 with a B.S. in physics. Next, he studied at the California Institute of Technology, obtaining his Ph.D. in physics June 1951.

Throughout his career, Parker has investigated a variety of problems, mostly in the dynamics of magnetized fluids and collisionless plasmas. He discovered the fundamental role of cyclonic turbulence in the generation of  magnetic fields, in the context of Earth and the Sun. He established the transonic solutions, representing the solar corona and solar wind and the heliosphere. He established the powerful, dynamical role of cosmic rays in the magnetic field of the galaxy. He proved the theorem that, in an infinitely conducting fluid, the equilibrium of an interlaced magnetic field line topology contains internal tangential discontinuities (current sheets), suggesting it is nanoflares that heat the solar X-ray emitting filaments.

Parker is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Astronomical Society. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967 and has received numerous honors and awards over the years. These include the 1968 American Geophysical Union John Adam Fleming Award; the National Academy of Sciences 1969 Henryk Arctowski Medal; an honorary doctorate of science from Michigan State University in 1975; the California Institute of Technology’s 1980 Distinguished Alumnus Award; the United States 1989 National Medal of Science; the Astronomische Gesellschaft 1990 Karl Schwarzschild Medal; the Association pour le Développement International de l’Observatoire de Nice 1997 (ADION) Medal; the American Physical Society’s 2003 James Clerk Maxwell Prize; Royal Astronomical Society’s 1992 Gold Medal; and the European Physical Society’s 2012 Hannes Alfvén Prize, among many others.

Selection Committee:

2018 Selection Committee Members: Roger Falcone (Chair), Samuel Bader, Baha Balantekin, Beverly Berger, William Bialek, Nicholas P Bigelow, Robert Continetti, Bonnie Fleming, Cary B. Forest, Miriam A. Forman, Giulia Galli, Timothy James Gay, Ann Renee Karagozian, John Bradley Marston, Murugappan Muthukumar, Thomas Roser, Philip Michael Tuts