Kenneth Wilson


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Physicist Kenneth Wilson, who earned a Nobel prize for pioneering work that changed the way physicists think about phase transitions, has died in Maine, where he retired to enjoy kayaking with his wife. He was 77.

Wilson, who died from complications of lymphoma, was in the physics department at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., when he won the Nobel Prize in 1982 for applying his research in quantum physics to phase transitions, the transformation that occurs when a substance goes from, say, liquid to gas. Wilson created a mathematical tool called the renormalization group that is still widely used in physics.

The son of a Harvard University chemist, the Waltham, Mass., native joined Cornell University in 1963 and later retired from Ohio State University, where he founded the Physics Education Research Group.

His wife, Alison Brown, still recalls the morning they learned of the Nobel Prize. She said on Tuesday that s he eventually had to take the phone off the hook so he could finish his breakfast.

Wilson loved to talk physics, she said.

"He was very patient and willing to explain things to people. He never talked down to people and made them feel like they were dumb," Brown said. "He was a kind person. He had a good way of wanting to explain what he was doing, because he always loved what he was doing."

Part of Wilson's gift was his ability to remain focused on complex problems, said Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell. His first project at Cornell involving elementary particle physics took him about five years to complete, Gottfried said.

"He worked very difficult problems that required concentration for a long time - I mean months and years," Gottfried said.

In his down time, Wilson was an avid hiker who enjoyed treks in Swiss Alps and Italian Dolomites, as well as the mountains of New Zealand, his wife said.

Wilson didn't talk m uch during the hikes because he was busy working out problems, she said.

"His brain was still turning over. He was cogitating on whatever problem he was working on," she said.

The couple met through international folk dancing, a passion they both shared, while they were at Cornell, where Brown worked in the computing center.

Their love of kayaking brought them to Maine. The couple moved to Maine in 1995, residing in Gray, and Wilson remained on staff at Ohio State until retiring in 2008. He died Saturday in a nursing home in Saco, his wife said.


DAVID SHARP, Associated Press

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To the Wilson Family,

Deeply sorry for the loss of such a brilliant man like Mr.Wilson His great work will live on and the memories he made will give you all a measure of comfort.

Psalms 37:29-"The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will live upon it forever".
He's pleasant smile is gone but will never be forgotten by all who knew and loved him dearly.

May your heart not be weighed down,may you be of good cheer,for your God in Heaven know your stressful situation.He has said that "He is opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing."


Cornell Information Technologies nametag ca. 1992

My sincerest condolences to you, Alison, and hopes that the future offers many consolations for your loss.

I will always appreciate your assistance in getting a leg up at Cornell…

Thanks, sincerely
- bonzie anne

It can be so hard to face the first few days without your loved one, but may the love and comfort of family and friends carry you through this most difficult time. 1Thessalonians 5:14

You have my deepest sympathy of the loss of a son, father and husband Mr. Kenneth Wilson, may God give you peace during this stressful time. (John 14:27).

My condolences to the Wilsob family. May the God of all comfort, comfort you during this most difficult time.

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.