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10/27/1998 08:00:00

David Goodstein Awarded 1999 Oersted Medal

PASADENA—The California Institute of Technology is pleased to announce that David Goodstein has been awarded the 1999 Oersted Medal by the American Association of Physics Teachers. The medal is to be presented at the Association's annual meeting in Anaheim next year.

Goodstein is vice provost and professor of physics and applied physics at Caltech, where he has been on the faculty for more than 30 years. In 1995 he was named the Frank J. Gilloon Distinguished Teaching and Service Professor.

His book, States of Matter, published in 1975 by Prentice Hall and reissued by Dover Press in 1985, was hailed by Physics Today as the book that launched a new discipline, condensed-matter physics. His research in experimental condensed-matter physics has dealt with phases and phase transitions in adsorbed, two-dimensional matter, ballistic phonons in solids, superfluidity in liquid helium, and critical point phenomena. This work has led to nearly 200 scientific publications. He is currently working on a future flight experiment that will examine the dynamics of the superfluid phase transition in the absence of gravity.

Goodstein has served on numerous scientific and academic panels, currently including the national advisory committee to the mathematical and physical sciences directorate of the National Science Foundation, which he currently chairs. He is a founding member of the board of directors of the California Council on Science and Technology.

Goodstein was the host and project director of The Mechanical Universe, a 52-part college physics telecourse based on his popular lectures at Caltech. The project, which has been adapted for high-school use and translated into many other languages, has been broadcast on hundreds of public-broadcasting stations and has garnered more than a dozen prestigious awards, including the 1987 Japan Prize for television.

In recent times, Goodstein has become interested in some of the larger issues that affect science as a profession. In a series of articles, colloquia, and speeches, he has stressed and analyzed the profound changes that became inevitable in the last few decades as the long period of exponential expansion of science came to an end. He has also turned his attention to issues related to conduct and misconduct in science. Prompted by the need to compose a set of regulations governing possible misconduct at Caltech, he has developed an academic subspecialty in this area, writing and speaking about it in a variety of forums. Together with his colleague, Professor of Philosophy James Woodward, he has developed a course, Research Ethics, which has been taught each year at Caltech since the early 1990s.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Goodstein attended Brooklyn College and received his PhD in physics from the University of Washington. He lives in Pasadena with his wife, Dr. Judith R. Goodstein, who is a faculty associate in history at Caltech, where she serves as archivist and registrar. The Goodsteins have two grown children and two grandchildren and have recently coauthored a best-selling book, Feynman's Lost Lecture.

The Oersted Medal, established in 1936, is the most prestigious award of the American Association of Physics Teachers and recognizes a teacher for notable contributions to the teaching of physics. A monetary award of $5,000, an inscribed medal, and a certificate are presented to the winner. There have been two previous Caltech winners of the Oersted Medal: Robert A. Milliken in 1940 and Richard P. Feynman in 1972.

Written by Sue McHugh