Leon N. Cooper is the Thomas J. Watson Senior Professor of Science at Brown University, his principal occupation. He specializes in theoretical physics, including low-temperature physics, and has also done theoretical work in modeling neural networks, which are networks of nerve cells. Dr. Cooper is the director of the Brown University Institute for Brain and Neural Systems and Brain Science Program, which consist of a group of scientists applying various disciplines to the study of the brain. He is also a professor in the departments of Physics and Neuroscience at Brown University. Dr. Cooper was awarded the Comstock Prize by the National Academy of Science in 1968, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972, the Descartes Medal by the Academie de Paris in 1977, and the College de France Medal in 2000.
He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for Advancement of Science, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Society for Neuroscience. He is chairman of Sention, Inc., a company that specializes in products that affect the process of memory storage, he is also a member of the Technical Advisory Board of Spectra Systems, Inc., a company that commercializes innovative laser products, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Nestor, Inc., a company that utilizes neural networks for commercial applications.
This text of the Nobel Laureate was taken from the book: "NOBELS. Nobel Laureates photographed by Peter Badge" (WILEY-VCH, 2008):
Leon Neil Cooper was groomed in the sciences from an early age. Born in 1930 in New York he attended Bronx High School of Science before going on to Columbia University, where he gained a BA in 1951, MA in 1953 and PhD in 1954. In rapid succession he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study (1954–55) University of Illinois (1955–57) and Ohio State University (1957–58) before settling at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1958 where he was elected Thomas J Watson, Sr. Professor of Science in 1974.
By that time, of course, he had already received his Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with John Bardeen and John Robert Schrieffer) for work he had carried out in his twenties. In 1956 he discovered that electrons, which normally repel each other, are attracted to each other in superconductors. These ‘Cooper pairs’ form the basis of his contribution to the BCS theory of superconductivity (named for the initials of its authors).
Cooper is also the founding director of Brown University’s Center for Neural Sciences, set up in 1973 to study animal nervous systems and the human brain, working towards an understanding of memory and other brain functions, and thus formulating a scientific model of how the human mind works. One objective of the institute is to explore cognitive pharmaceuticals and intelligent systems for use in electronics, automobiles and communications. He is also on the governing board and executive committee of the International Neural Network Society and a member of the Defense Science Board.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that Cooper is cofounder of Nestor Inc, which specialises in bending artificial intelligence systems to commercial and military applications. Nestor’s systems learn by example to recognise targets in sonar, radar or imaging systems, and to emulate human decisions in various situations requiring risk assessment, such as mortgage origination.
Aside from the Nobel Prize, Cooper was awarded the National Academy of Sciences’ Comstock Prize (with Schrieffer) in 1968, among other awards. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and Academy of Arts and Sciences; sponsor of the Federation of American Scientists; member of American Philosophical Society, National Academy of Sciences, Society of Neuroscience, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi. He was an Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow from 1959 to 1966 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 1965–66, and has lectured and worked abroad at the Institute for Advanced Study, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. His books include the unorthodox philosophical text An Introduction to the Meaning and Structure of Physics (1968).