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Fellows Directory

Michael Berry

Michael Berry

Sir Michael Berry FRS


Elected: 1982


Michael Berry is a theoretical physicist known for his research in the ‘borderlands’ between classical and quantum theories and ray and wave optics. His emphasis is on geometrical singularities such as ray caustics and wave vortices. Michael discovered the geometric phase, a phase difference arising from cyclically changing conditions with applications in many areas of wave physics, including polarisation optics and condensed matter.

He delights in finding the arcane in the mundane: mathematical singularities in rainbows and the dancing lines at the bottom of swimming pools; the twists and turns of a belt that underlie the quantum behaviour of identical particles; a laser pointer shone through bathroom window glass to demonstrate abstract aspects of wave interference; and oriental magic mirrors, illustrating the mathematical Laplace operator.

Michael has received numerous awards, including the Maxwell Medal and the Dirac Medal of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society’s Royal Medal, the London Mathematical Society’s Pólya Prize, the Wolf Prize and the Lorentz Medal. He serves on scientific committees of various institutes and was knighted in 1996.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Astronomy and physics
    • Mathematical and theoretical physics, Quantum theory


  • Bakerian Medal and Lecture

    On 'The semiclassical chaology of quantum eigenvalues'.

  • Royal Medals

    In recognition of his deep and innovatory researches in classical and quantum physics, especially the discovery of the "Berry phase".

  • Wolf Prize

    In the field of physics for the discovery of quantum topological and geometrical phases. specifically the Aharonov–Bohm effect, the Berry phase, and their incorporation into many fields of physics.

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