Michael E. Fisher received his BSc from King's College London in 1951, where he also earned a PhD in physics in 1957. He was appointed to the faculty as a lecturer the following year, becoming a full professor in 1965. In 1966 he moved to Cornell University where he became professor of chemistry, physics, and mathematics, chairing the chemistry department from 1975 to 1978. In 1971, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1973, he and Jack Kiefer were the first two Cornell faculty elected as Horace White Professors. Fisher was elected Secretary of the Cornell University Senate. In 1983, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, chemistry section. Since 1987 he has been at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.
Fisher currently lives in Maryland with his wife Sorrel. They have four children. Two of them are also theoretical physicists: Daniel S. Fisher is professor of Applied Physics at Stanford, while Matthew P. A. Fisher is professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Fisher together with Kenneth G. Wilson and Leo Kadanoff won the Wolf Prize in 1980. The prize was awarded with the following comment:"Professor Michael E. Fisher has been an extraordinarily productive scientist, and one still at the height of his powers and creativity. Fisher's major contributions have been in equilibrium statistical mechanics, and have spanned the full range of that subject. He was mainly responsible for bringing together, and teaching a common language to chemists and physicists working on diverse problems of phase transitions."
In 1983, Fisher was awarded the Boltzmann Medal "for his many illuminating contributions to phase transitions and critical phenomena during the past 25 years"
Fisher won the Lars Onsager Prize in 1995 "for his numerous and seminal contributions to statistical mechanics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena, scaling laws, critical exponents, finite size effects, and the application of the renormalization group to many of the above problems" (official laudatio).