Two Americans, Russian Win Nobel Prize in Physics

STOCKHOLM, Oct 7 — Three scientists who worked separately to explain the nature of matter at extremely low temperatures won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday.

The three — Russians Vitaly Ginzburg and Alexei Abrikosov and British-born Anthony Leggett — worked on theories that led to the development of magnetic imaging scanners.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement it was recognising the trio's theories concerning two areas of quantum physics — superconductivity and superfluidity.

Ginzburg, 87, was head of the theory group at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow and Abrikosov, 75, now works at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Leggett, 65, is at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Like Abrikosov, Leggett now holds U.S. citizenship.

Abrikosov told Reuters he had begun his work over half a century ago in the Soviet Union in a scientific world that was almost unrecognisable and virtually without computers.

"All three of us have something in common — our discoveries ...were done many years ago. We are pretty old people," he said from Lemont, Illinois, on learning of the award.

"We worked mostly in a world without computers."

A self-deprecating Ginzburg said his share of the $1.3 million prize would be lavished on his great-grandchildren: "A tennis player can earn this amount for just one game.

"For me, of course, it's a huge amount of money, as it is for anyone in Russia who isn't a crook or a business tycoon."

"I'm pleased to be sharing the prize with them," Leggett said of his fellow winners, whom he had met professionally. His own main research on the topic was done in England in the 1970s.

Revolutionary Potential

Scientists said the laureates' work on superconductivity in particular still had potentially revolutionary applications.

"Superconductivity holds the promise of a new class of electronics device which can save big energy and lead to levitating trains and improved medical imaging," Phil Schewe, chief science writer at the American Institute of Physics, said.

The theories developed by the Russian laureates had laid the groundwork for Monday's medical prize, which recognised discoveries on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the now familiar painless diagnostic method used by doctors to look inside the bodies of millions of patients every year.

"They developed a theory which laid the groundwork for MRI techniques," said academy member Professor Erik Karlsson.

"The Nobel prize on Monday was partly thanks to the development of this theoretical work. They made it possible to have excellent pictures of the human body."

Leggett formulated "a decisive theory" explaining how atoms interact and are ordered in superfluid state, the Academy said.

The Nobel committee at the 264-year-old Swedish Academy proposed the names which were endorsed on Tuesday morning by the 350 Academy members meeting in closed session in Stockholm.

The prize includes a cheque for more than 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.3 million) to be shared among the three. The winners join an illustrious pantheon which includes Albert Einstein.

The Nobel prizes, first awarded in 1901, were created in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, who died in 1896. They are presented in glittering ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of his death.

(Additional reporting Tanya Mosolova in Moscow and Mike Conlon in Chicago)