Charles P. Slichter

Charles P. Slichter
Charles P. Slichter
For establishing nuclear magnetic resonance as a powerful tool to elucidate the structure of materials and using it to make fundamental discoveries in physics and chemistry that have enabled a host of modern technologies.

Internationally recognized as one of the world’s top condensed matter physicists, Charles P. Slichter has been a leading innovator in applying magnetic resonance techniques to understanding the structure of matter for more than 50 years. From his laboratories at Illinois, Slichter and his students helped shape the College’s condensed matter physics research program, which continues to be recognized as one of the world’s top programs.

In 1949, Wheeler Loomis personally recruited Slichter to Illinois as an instructor in physics. He advanced rapidly through the faculty ranks, becoming a full professor in 1955. Now professor emeritus, Slichter continues as an active researcher and a revered mentor in the Department of Physics. He has passed on his legacy to several generations, advising a total of 63 PhD students. Through three editions, his textbook, Principles of Magnetic Resonance, has served as a standard in the field for over 50 years.

The Research Professor of Physics and Center for Advanced Study Emeritus Professor of Physics and Chemistry earned the National Medal of Science in 2007, receiving formal recognition from President George W. Bush. Slichter was honored for “establishing nuclear magnetic resonance as a powerful tool to reveal the fundamental properties of molecules and solids, enabling a host of modern technologies in condensed matter physics, chemistry and medicine.”

Slichter was elected into the National Academy of Sciences in 1967, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969, and to the American Philosophical Society in 1971. In 1969, the American Physical Society (APS) presented him with the Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics for his "innovation in the applications of magnetic resonance techniques to the understanding of the structural and dynamic properties of matter."

In 1996, he received the Oliver E. Buckley Prize from APS for his "original and creative applications of the magnetic resonance techniques to elucidate the microscopic properties of condensed matter systems, especially, superconductors." Further recognition has come from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance (ISMAR; Triennial Prize, 1986), the National Academy of Sciences (Comstock Prize, 1993), and the U.S. Department of Energy (awards for materials-science research 1984, 1992, and 1993).

Beyond our campus, Slichter has provided exemplary leadership to both government and industry. He served on the President's Scientific Advisory Committee (1965–69), the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science (1969–74), and the President’s Committee on Science and Technology Policy (1976), as well as on the National Science Board (1976–84). He served on the board of directors of The Polaroid Corporation (1975–1995), chaired the research advisory committee of United Technologies Corporation (1972–82), and served on the scientific advisory committee for IBM Corporation (1978–93). In addition to his intellectual leadership to the University of Illinois, Slichter was a member of the Harvard Corporation, Harvard’s seven-member governing board, from 1970-95.

Slichter earned A.B. (1946), M.A. (1947) and Ph.D. (1949) degrees from Harvard University. The United States entered World War II while he was an undergraduate, and Slichter joined the Underwater Explosives Research Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the summer of 1943, where he built and maintained electronic apparatus and worked under the direction of some of the brightest physicists and chemists in the world. He now takes his place among them.


  • AB Harvard, 1946
  • MA Harvard, 1947
  • PhD Harvard, 1949