Theodore Wolfgang Hanch was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1941, and received a Diploma in Physics in 1966 and Doctorate (summa cum lauda) degree in Physics in 1969 at the University of Heidelberg. He served for a few years at that University, then as a Professor of Physics at Stanford University in the USA (1975-1986). During his tenure at Stanford he became increasingly involved in laser physics research. Following his return to Germany in 1986, he was appointed Director of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics and Professor of Experimental Physics and Laser Spectroscopy at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. He was a visiting professor at a number of European, US and Asian universities.
Professor Hansch is a distinguished researcher in laser physics. He developed methods to exploit the unique properties of laser light to eliminate the Doppler broadening of spectral lines and was able to make widely tunable dye lasers (one known as the Hansch laser) so monochromatic that Doppler–Free saturation spectroscopy could be applied at any wavelength from the near infrared to the near ultraviolet. Using a devise called the optical frequency comb generator which he and his group invented in the 1990’s, he was able to measure Lyman lines of atomic hydrogen to an extraordinary precision of 1 part in a hundred trillion. Hansch’s studies revised the laws governing atoms, molecules, liquids and solids and led to major breakthroughs in the microscopic world. Professor Haensch authored and co-authored hundreds of scientific papers, and mentored a large body of Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows, including the King Faisal Prize and Nobel laureate Carl Weiman.
Professor Hansch’s ground-breaking achievements in the development of laser-based, ultraprecise spectroscopy earned him the respect of the international scientific community and a long list of prestigious prizes and medals, honorary degrees, lectureships, and fellowships of major scientific academies and societies throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Among his most notable prizes are: the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibinz Prize – the highest scientific aweard in Germany – in 1988, the King Faisal International Prize for Science in 1989, and the Nobel Prize in 2005. He also serves on the editorial boards of several physics journals.
Dr. Hansch produced a most important work in laser physics. Before his work, attempts to study the details at atomic and molecular structure were confounded by the Doppler broadening of their spectral signatures that was thermal motion. Dr. Hansch showed how to he Doppler widths of spectral lines. When the Doppler broadening was thus drawn away a bewildering complexity was revealed in the spectra of heavier molecules.