Arthur Kornberg was the first to synthesize DNA-like material in a test tube. He won the Nobel Prize in 1959 for his work, which is seminal to understanding the relationship of DNA to diseases.
Stanley Cohen of Stanford and Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco showed that segments of DNA from two species, once joined, could be put back into a living cell, where they would replicate. Their gene-splicing work — in essence, a practical method for transplanting genes from one species to another – helped lead to the creation of the biotechnology industry.
Felix Bloch shared the 1952 Nobel Prize in physics for work on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). NMR provided the basis for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is now widely used for medical diagnosis and study of the atomic structure of materials.
William Hansen and brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian invented the klystron tube, a high-frequency amplifier for generating microwaves. It revolutionized high-energy physics and microwave research and led to the airborne radar used in aircraft today. The klystron also has been used in satellite communications, airplane and missile guidance systems, and telephone and television transmission.
Radiologist Henry Kaplan collaborated with Edward Ginzton at Stanford’s Microwave Laboratory to build the first six-million-volt accelerator for cancer therapy, making Hodgkin’s disease and forms of cancer treatable.
Arthur Schawlow shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1981 as the co-inventor of the laser. Although dubbed a technology in search of an application when it was invented, lasers have played an essential role in scientific studies from physics to geology to microbiology. At the same time, lasers have found a host of commercial applications, ranging from surveying to CD music players, from welding detached retinas back into the eye to moving tremendous amounts of data across country via optical fiber.
With researchers at Berkeley and IBM, Stanford computer scientist (and now university president) John Hennessy invented a new type of computer design, called Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC), that increased computer performance, reduced cost and revolutionized the computer industry.
John Chowning invented the algorithm that made possible the Yamaha synthesizer widely used in electronic music. Yamaha used Chowning’s algorithm, called Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis, to develop the world’s first fully digital synthesizer and a chip found on computer sound boards that give many personal computers audio capability.
Stanford economist William Sharpe won the 1990 Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for developing a theory of price formation for financial assets — the Capital Asset Pricing Model — that revolutionized the investment world. Sharpe’s theoretical model is widely used in asset allocation and evaluation of investment performance.
Brad Parkinson, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, led the military team that developed the global positioning system, which, through satellites, can locate a user’s position anywhere on earth to within a few hundred feet.