Nobel Newspaper Article

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305

This is one of several newspaper articles related to Prof. Laughlin's 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Fresno Bee
Wednesday, 14 October 1998

Visalia Native is Nobel Prize-Winner in Physics

Robert B. Laughlin Shares the Award with Two Scientists

By Matthew G. Kreamer

No photographs lined the hallway walls of Robert B. Laughlin's childhood home in Visalia. Instead, blackboards were hung there to entice Robert and his siblings, Margaret, Julie and John.

The children used them for everything from homework to doodling. And Tuesday, after hearing that Laughlin won a Nobel Prize for physics, his sister, Margaret, partially credited her father and those blackboards.

"My brother is involved in what I call the blackboard sciences," Martin said. "What he does just comes from him being in a room with a blackboard."

Laughlin, 47, of Stanford, was awakened by a telephone call from Sweden at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. The voice on the other end of the line told him he was a Nobel Prize winner.

"He was pretty surprised and pretty happy," said his wife, Anita.

While Laughlin may have been surprised to win a Nobel Prize, those close to him aren't shocked at all.

"His mother has been saying for years that he would win a Nobel Prize someday," joked family friend Jim Sorensen of Visalia.

Sorensen said Laughlin always has had an inquisitive streak.

"I've known him since he was a little kid," Sorensen said. "He was the guy who put radios and things together in the basement. I remember him and his dad were always doing things like that."

Laughlin, a Visalia native, graduated from Redwood High School in 1968 and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, Anita said. In 1979, he earned a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Three years later, he took a job at the Lawrence Livermore Lab as a research scientist. it was there, in the early 1980s, that he did the work that earned him a share in the Nobel Prize Tuesday.

He and two other physicists - Horst L. Stormer and Daniel C. Tsui - discovered a new type of "quantum fluid" and each will receive about $300,000 in prize money, Anita Laughlin said.

"As long as my brother's been a scientist, I've never understood what he does," Martin said.

In the mid-1980s, Laughlin took a teaching job at Stanford University, where he continued to be a professor of physics.

Martin stressed the importance of continuing work such as Laughlin's.

"It's so important for out government to continue to fund pure science," she said.

Laughlin spent most of the day Tuesday on the telephone talking to family, friends and co-workers, Anita Laughlin said. "He's been talking on the phone since 3 a.m.," she said.

He also attended a reception at Stanford University. Tuesday evening, his wife said she didn't know where he was.

"I think he's lost," she said.