Herbert Walther was born in Ludwigshaven/Rein in Germany in 1935. He received his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees in physics at the University of Heidelburg and persued post-doctoral research at Heidelburgh and the Technological University in Hannover. He served as a guest lecturer at the University of Hannover in 1968 and subsequently held established positions at Aime Cotton Laboratories in Orsay (France), the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder, Colorado (USA), and the universities of Bonn and Cologne in Germany. He reached the pinnacle of his career as Professor of Physics at the Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich and a founding Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching. Following his retirement, he became Professor Emeritus and honorary director of the Laser Laboratory at MPQ.
Professor Walther was an internationally acclaimed authority in the fields of quantum optics and laser physics. He made seminal contributions to the advancement of quantum optics as a result of his one-atom maser and ion-trappingnexperiments, which significantly advanced cavity quantum electrodynamics. Walther and his teams successfully used an ion trap to precisely position and permanently keep a single ion in an optical field. In that manner, they were able to measure the spatial distribution of the field with unprecedented accuracy on a nanometer scale and free of perturbations. Such precise control of the interaction between an atom and electromagnetic radiation was a scientific breakthrough, not only for the accurate measurement of optical fields, but also for future applications such as the generation of light with exotic quantum properties and the realization of efficient gates in a quantum computer. Walther was also a champion of world scientific cooperation; he chaired the Steering Committee of the World of Photonics Congress for 10 years during which he succeeded in unifying European societies under the umbrella of the Congress and in garnering support for international cooperation in the field of photonics.
Professor Walther published more than 600 papers in leading physics journals and edited many books. He also co-authored “The Quantum Theory of the Laser” article for the Optical Society of America’s (OSA) Handbook of Optics, and contributed significantly to the series: “Advances in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics.” He was a Fellow of the OSA, fellow or member of major scientific academies and professional societies, and recipient of numerous illustrious awards and honors, in addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Science. Professor Walther died in 2006.
Dr. Walther, has been awarded the prize, for his original and outstanding research has contributed greatly to the development of Quantum Optics. He was one of the first scientists to investigate fundamental quantum phenomena involving single atoms and photons.