Arthur B. McDonald

Arthur Bruce McDonald, CC OOnt ONS FRS FRSC P.Eng, (born August 29, 1943) is a Canadian astrophysicist. McDonald is the director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration and held the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario from 2006 to 2013. He was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Japanese physicist Takaaki Kajita.

Arthur B. McDonald

Arthur B. McDonald in Stockholm in December 2015
Arthur Bruce McDonald

(1943-08-29) August 29, 1943
ResidenceKingston, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater
Known forSolving the solar neutrino problem
Scientific career
ThesisExcitation energies and decay properties of T = 3/2 states in 17O, 17F and 21Na. (1970)
Doctoral advisorCharles A. Barnes

Early life

McDonald was born on August 29, 1943,[1] in Sydney, Nova Scotia.[2] He graduated with a B.Sc. in physics in 1964 and M.Sc. in physics in 1965 from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.[3] He then obtained his Ph.D. in physics in 1969 from the California Institute of Technology.[4] McDonald cited a high school math teacher and his first-year physics professor at Dalhousie as his inspirations for going into the field of physics.[5]

Academic career

McDonald worked as a Research Officer at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories northwest of Ottawa from 1969 to 1982. He became professor of physics at Princeton University from 1982 to 1989, leaving Princeton to join Queen's University where he became Professor from 1989 to 2013.

McDonald was a visiting scientist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva in 2004.[6]

In 2013 McDonald became Professor Emeritus of Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. He continues to be active in basic research in Neutrinos and Dark Matter at the SNOLAB underground Laboratory and as member of the Board of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.[3][7][8]


Physicists have been investigating whether or not neutrinos have mass. Since the late 1960s, experiments have hinted that neutrinos may have mass. Theoretical models of the Sun predict that neutrinos should be made in large numbers. Neutrino detectors on the Earth have repeatedly seen fewer than the expected number of neutrinos. Because neutrinos come in three varieties (electron, muon, and tau neutrinos), and because solar neutrino detectors have been primarily sensitive only to electron neutrinos, the preferred explanation over the years is that those "missing" neutrinos had changed, or oscillated, into a variety for which the detectors had little or no sensitivity. If a neutrino oscillates, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, then it must have a mass.[7]

In 1984, McDonald's collaborator Herb Chen at the University of California at Irvine suggested the advantages of using heavy water as a detector for solar neutrinos.[9] Unlike previous detectors, using heavy water would make the detector sensitive to two reactions, one reaction sensitive to all neutrino flavours, the other sensitive to only the electron neutrino. Thus, such a detector could measure neutrino oscillations directly. Chen, McDonald, and collaborators formed the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) to exploit this idea in 1984.[6][10] SNO was to be a detector facility using 1000 tonnes of heavy water located 6,800 feet (2,100 m) underground in a mine outside Sudbury, Ontario. Chen died of leukemia in November 1987, however.

In August 2001, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, now led by McDonald, reported observations that directly suggested electron neutrinos from the Sun were oscillating into muon and tau neutrinos. McDonald is a co-recipient of the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, and the 2015 Fundamental Physics Prize for the discovery of neutrino oscillations and demonstrating that neutrinos have mass.[4][11]

Selected honours and awards


  1. "McDonald, Prof. Arthur Bruce". Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. "Past Winner 2003 NSERC Award of Excellence McDonald". Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  3. "CV Arthur B. McDonald" (PDF).
  4. "Arthur B. McDonald". The Franklin Institute. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  5. Gibson, Victoria (October 8, 2015). "Queen's professor awarded Nobel Prize". Queen's Journal. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  6. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015". Retrieved 2016-12-15.
  7. "Interview with Arthur B. McDonald". Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
  8. "Board of Directors". Perimeter Institute. 2012. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  9. Chen, Herbert H. (September 1985). "Direct Approach to Resolve the Solar-Neutrino Problem". Physical Review Letters. 55 (14): 1534–1536. Bibcode:1985PhRvL..55.1534C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.55.1534. PMID 10031848.
  10. Ewan, G.T.; Davidson, W.F. (2005). "Early Development of the Underground SNO Laboratory in Canada" (PDF). Physics in Canada. 61: 339–346, 347–350. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  11. Spears, Tom (9 November 2015). "Neutrino Nobel winner Art McDonald nabs second big physics prize". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  12. "Order of Canada citation". 2018-06-11.
  13. "Arthur McDonald biography". Royal Society. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  14. "Henry Marshall Tory Medal". Royal Society of Canada. Archived from the original on 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  15. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015".
  16. "Order of Canada Appointments". The Governor General of Canada His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  17. "229781 Arthurmcdonald (2008 PS1)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  18. "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  19. National Academy of Sciences Members and Foreign Associates Elected, News from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, May 3, 2016, archived from the original on May 6, 2016, retrieved 2016-05-14.
  20. "Order of Nova Scotia". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
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