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Fellows Directory

Sam Edwards

Sam Edwards

Sir Sam Edwards FRS


Elected: 1966


Samuel Edwards was a physicist renowned for introducing quantum field theory into statistical physics. This included a now-standard approach to modelling polymer chains as continuous, flexible curves. He co-founded the subject of spin glasses — magnets in which the spins of the component atoms are disordered. He also laid foundations for predicting properties of dense polymer systems, proposing a ‘tube’ model of how these are entangled.

Substances like glasses and gels are described as disordered systems — there is no overall order to their components. Samuel’s insight was to recognise and apply techniques from quantum theory — Feynmann diagrams and path integral methods — to describing the overall statistical properties of these systems.

Amongst Sam’s many awards were the Royal Medal from the Royal Society in 2001, the 1995 Boltzmann Medal of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and the 2005 Dirac Medal of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. Samuel was knighted in 1975.

Sir Sam Edward FRS died on 7 July 2015.

Biographical Memoir

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Astronomy and physics
    • Statistical
  • Chemistry
    • Chemistry, general


  • Davy Medal

    In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the theoretical basis of thermodynamic aspects of polymer chemistry.

  • Royal Medals

    In recognition of his enormous influence across a wide spectrum of physical sciences, particularly theoretical condensed matter physics. His clear vision has had a major impact on experimentation and on scientific and industrial policy and he is largely responsible for the recognition of the fundamental challenges of complex materials and the provision of theoretic tools to tackle them and the inspiration for their application.

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