Odyssey Medal

Ben Schumacher

Ben Schumacher 2Ben Schumacher graduated from Hendrix in 1982 with High Honors and received the President’s Medal. He went on to graduate school in theoretical physics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow and a University Fellow. He received his Ph.D. as the last graduate student of famed physicist John Archibald Wheeler. In 1988 he joined the faculty of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he is now Professor of Physics.

Schumacher is one of the founders of quantum information theory, a multidisciplinary science that combines quantum physics, mathematics and computer science. Among his contributions, he discovered quantum data compression and introduced the term “qubit” for the basic unit of quantum information. (“Qubit” is now in several dictionaries, including the latest Scrabble dictionary; it’s worth 16 points.) For this work he received the 2002 Quantum Communication Award (the leading international prize in the field of quantum information) and was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was a Rosenbaum Fellow at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge University, and a Moore Distinguished Scholar at Caltech.

Schumacher is the author of more than two dozen scientific papers on topics ranging from quantum theory to black holes to the foundations of thermodynamics. He is also the author of two textbooks: Physics in Spacetime -- An Introduction to Special Relativity (Rinton Press, 2005) and Quantum Processes, Systems and Information (with M. D. Westmoreland; Cambridge University Press, 2010). In addition, he has done a pair of successful video courses on physics for general audiences: Quantum Mechanics -- The Physics of the Microscopic World (2009) and Impossible -- Physics Beyond the Edge (2010), both produced by the Teaching Company. A third video course on gravitation is planned for 2013.

While at Kenyon, Schumacher has taught courses at all levels of undergraduate physics, plus courses in astronomy, mathematics, scientific computing, and even the humanities. Many of his former students have gone on to graduate study and careers as physicists. He is a two-time recipient of the Robert Tomsich Award for faculty research at Kenyon.

He met his wife, Carol Smith Schumacher, on the first day of freshman calculus at Hendrix. She is also a 1982 Hendrix alumna, a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Texas, and a Professor (of Mathematics) at Kenyon College. They have two daughters and some number of cats.