Joseph H. Hamilton, the Landon C. Garland Distinguished Professor of Physics at Vanderbilt University, was born in Ferriday, Louisiana. Hamilton has led research into the discovery that nuclei of atoms have many possible coexisting shapes rather than a fixed shape. He has been a driving force behind Tennessee's emergence as a world center for graduate education and research in nuclear physics.
Hamilton pioneered and entrepreneured the first major research facilities in the United States to study nuclei far from stability. Creating unique partnerships with the State of Tennessee, the federal government, and public and private universities, he founded the University Isotope Separator at Oak Ridge (UNISOR), a consortium of twelve universities, in 1971. In 1981 he founded the Joint Institute for Heavy Ion Research (JIHIR) in Oak Ridge, which brings scientists from around the world to Tennessee to do research. He continues to direct both facilities.
In 1996 he was honored with the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Development of International Cooperations. The award recognized Hamilton, who has published research with more than 210 scientists in thirty countries, for his leadership in developing significant individual international cooperations and for his founding of the Joint Institute, which has successfully engaged in more scientific international collaborations than any other group in the United States.
Hamilton has won numerous awards for his teaching and research. He has lectured around the world and is the author of more than six hundred research papers and numerous research books and textbooks on physics. Hamilton has directed the research of nine senior theses, twenty-five master's theses, fifty-four Ph.D. dissertations, and the work of more than eighty postdoctoral research associates. He received his bachelor's degree from Mississippi College, his master's and doctoral degrees from Indiana University, and honorary doctorates from Mississippi College and the University of Frankfort in Germany.