Dirac Medallists 2017

The 2017 ICTP Dirac Medal and Prize has been awarded to Charles H. Bennett (IBM Watson Research Centre), David Deutsch (Oxford) and Peter W. Shor (MIT) for their pioneering work in applying the fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics to solving basic problems in computation and communication and therefore bringing together the fields of quantum mechanics, computer science and information.

Charles Bennett is an intellectual leader in quantum information with key contributions. He proved that classical computation can be done without consumption of energy by inventing what is now known as reversible classical computation. He further invented quantum cryptography, where the basic dichotomy of measurement of incompatible observables in quantum mechanics is used to share a secret key between two distant parties. He and collaborators also introduced quantum teleportation, whereby entanglement is put to use to transfer states of quantum matter at the speed of light. He further showed how universal quantum circuits can be made by assembling a fixed set of one and two qubit gates and also proved that von-Neumann entropy is the proper measure of entanglement for pure systems.

David Deutsch is considered as one of the founding fathers of quantum computing. He invented the notion of a quantum Turing machine, the concept of the quantum logic gate and quantum circuit, as well as the network model of computations. He also proposed the first quantum algorithms known as the Deutsch and the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithms, showing that the quantum superposition principle can be used to solve certain problems faster than any classical computer and therefore showing the advantage of quantum computation.

Peter Shor consolidated the field of quantum computation by designing the quantum algorithm for factoring large numbers. He proved that a quantum computer could solve a hard computational problem exponentially faster than any classical computer. He also introduced quantum error correcting codes and fault tolerant quantum computation. The theory of error correcting codes is now a well-established branch of this science, substantiating the possibility for error-free quantum computation.