Blayne Heckel

University of Washington

2021 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

For precision fundamental measurements that test our understanding of gravity, probe the nature of dark energy, and establish limits on couplings to dark matter.


I am honored that the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has acknowledged our work on torsion balance tests of aspects of gravity, dark matter and dark energy. It takes a number of factors to align to enable curiosity-driven research including adequate funding, research facilities and support from colleagues. To this point, I thank the National Science Foundation for its support over the years, the University of Washington for its commitment to and support for research, and the Department of Physics at the University of Washington for a stimulating and supportive culture. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with outstanding physicists throughout my career, starting with my thesis supervisor Norman Ramsey, and followed by others at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, most notably Mike Pendlebury, Walter Mampe, Geoffrey Greene, John Morse and Tim Sumner. After Grenoble, I began a faculty career at the University of Washington where I am particularly indebted to Norval Fortson and Eric Adelberger for their mentorship and collaborations. It was the culture of precision measurements they helped establish that led to the experimental gravity work. I am also deeply grateful to my wife and family for their love and support.

Blayne Heckel