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2023 Lise Meitner Medal and Prize

Dr Harry Cliff for outstanding contributions to the public understanding of physics, through exhibitions, festivals, talks, magazine articles and a popular science book, which together have reached millions of people.

Dr Harry Cliff has an exceptional record of communicating physics to the public, most recently through the popular science book How To Make An Apple Pie From Scratch, published in the UK and USA in 2021/22. During his 11-year career in particle physics, Cliff has curated two major exhibitions at the Science Museum, given dozens of public and school talks, co-curated a science and arts festival, and written numerous articles for popular magazines. His work has reached millions of people worldwide.

His first popular science book tells the story of humankind’s search for the origins of matter from early atomic theory through to modern experiments including the Large Hadron Collider and Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. It has been widely praised for its exceptional clarity, wit and engaging narrative style, both in the press, online reader reviews and the physics community. Among other accolades, the book was selected as a Best Science Book of 2021 by the prestigious American book review magazine Kirkus, while Jim Al-Khalili described it as following “in the best traditions of Feynman and Sagan”. It has subsequently been published in translation in Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.

At the Science Museum, Cliff curated two blockbuster exhibitions on physics. In 2013, Collider told the story of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson through an innovative mix of exhibition and promenade theatre, receiving widespread critical praise and drawing over 650,000 visitors in London, Manchester and five further international venues. Externally commissioned evaluation praised the way the exhibition brought CERN to life and personalized the scientific research, while visitors reported extremely high levels of satisfaction, exceeding 93%. His second exhibition in 2018, The Sun – Living with Our Star, explores humankind’s changing relationship with the Sun through engineering, medicine, physics and astronomy. Having run in London and Manchester, it is currently touring internationally.

Cliff is one of the UK’s most talented communicators of science, having given numerous talks in schools and at festivals and public events. His TED Talk and Royal Institution evening lecture have been watched by over 6 million people worldwide. He developed the science programme of Gravity Fields in 2016 and 2018, a science and arts festival in Grantham that brings high quality science events to an economically deprived and underserved area of England. Taken together, this work represents an exceptional contribution to the public understanding of physics, carried out alongside a successful career in particle physics.