ⓘ Serge Haroche


ⓘ Serge Haroche

Serge Haroche is a French physicist who was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with David J. Wineland for "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems", a study of the particle of light, the photon. This and his other works developed laser spectroscopy. Since 2001, Haroche is a Professor at the College de France and holds the Chair of Quantum Physics. In 1971 he defended his doctoral thesis in physics at the University of Paris VI: his research had been conducted under the direction of Claude Cohen-Tannoudji.


1. Personal life and family

Serge Haroche was born in Casablanca, Morocco, to Albert Haroche 1920–1998, from a Moroccan Jewish family, and Valentine Haroche, nee Roubleva 1921–1998 a teacher who was born in Odessa to a Jewish family of physicians who relocated to Morocco in the early 1920s. His father, a lawyer trained in Rabat, was one of seven children born to a family of teachers Isaac and Esther Haroche who worked at the Ecole de l’Alliance israelite AIU. Both paternal grandparents of Serge Haroche had been AIU students in their respective hometowns of Marrakesh and Tetouan the school which Esther Azerad attended in Tetouan had been founded in 1862; it was the first school of the AIU network.

Haroche left Morocco and settled in France in 1956, at the end of the French protectorate treaty.

He currently lives in Paris; he is married to the sociologist Claudine Haroche nee Zeligson, also descending from the Russian Jewish emigres family, with two children aged 40 and 43. He is the uncle of French singer–songwriter and actor Raphael Haroche known as Raphael, his stage name.


2. Career

Haroche worked in the Centre national de la recherche scientifique CNRS as a research scientist from 1967 to 1975, and spent a year 1972–1973 as a visiting post-doc in Stanford University, in Arthur Leonard Schawlows team. In 1975 he moved to a professor position at Paris VI University. At the same time he taught in other institutions, in particular at the Ecole polytechnique 1973–1984, MIT 1980, Harvard University 1981, Yale University 1984–1993 and Conservatoire national des arts et metiers 2000. He was head of the Physics department at the Ecole normale superieure from 1994 to 2000.

Since 2001, Haroche has been a Professor at the College de France and holds the Chair of Quantum Physics. He is a member of the Societe Française de Physique, the European Physical society and a fellow and member of the American Physical Society.

In September 2012, Serge Haroche was elected by his peers to the position of administrator of the College de France.

On 9 October 2012 Haroche was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, together with the American physicist David Wineland, for their work regarding measurement and manipulation of individual quantum systems.


3. Research

Haroche works primarily in atomic physics and quantum optics. He is principally known for proving quantum decoherence by experimental observation, while working with colleagues at the Ecole normale superieure in Paris in 1996.

After a PhD dissertation on dressed atoms under the supervision of Claude Cohen-Tannoudji himself a Nobel Prize recipient from 1967 to 1971, he developed new methods for laser spectroscopy, based on the study of quantum beats and superradiance. He then moved on to Rydberg atoms, giant atomic states particularly sensitive to microwaves, which makes them well adapted for studying the interactions between light and matter. He showed that such atoms, coupled to a superconducting cavity containing a few photons, are well-suited to the testing of quantum decoherence and to the realization of quantum logic operations necessary for the treatment of quantum information.


4. Awards

  • 1993 Albert A. Michelson Medal by the Franklin Institute
  • 2017 IEEE Honorary Membership
  • 2009 CNRS Gold medal
  • 1992 The Humboldt Prize
  • 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics shared with David J. Wineland
  • Commander of the French Legion of Honour
  • 2007 Charles Hard Townes Award by the OSA
  • 1988 Einstein Prize for Laser Science awarded at Lasers 88.