Professor Robert Richardson: Physicist and Nobel laureate
Saturday 02 March 2013
Robert C Richardson, who died from complications of a heart attack on 19 February at the age of 75, was a Cornell University professor who shared a Nobel Prize for a key discovery in experimental physics. He and his fellow Cornell researchers David Lee and Douglas Osheroff were awarded the Nobel for 1996 for their 1971 work on low-temperature physics involving the isotope helium-3.
They discovered that the helium-3 can be made to flow without resistance – a state called superfluidity – at about 0.002 of a degree above absolute zero. The discovery revolutionised the field of low-temperature physics, leading to major advances in the understanding of the hydrodynamics of intricately ordered systems, the microscopic theory of electrons in metals and the range of phenomena accessible to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) probes. The discovery also had implications for astrophysics, from galaxy formation to the composition and nature of rotating neutron stars.
Richardson was born in Washington, DC in 1937 and attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, where he said the science classes were old-fashioned. "I was taught that absolute zero is the temperature at which all motion stops," he recalled. "It is most fortunate that the statement was wrong. Otherwise helium-3 could not become a superfluid."
He earned his bachelors and masters degrees in physics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a doctorate at Duke University, where he studied with Horst Meyer and later served as a trustee. He joined Cornell in 1968 and was named Floyd R Newman Professor of Physics in 1987.
"Bob Richardson was an extraordinary physicist who used his deep understanding of the scientific enterprise to shape the course of research at Cornell and nationally," said Cornell's President David Skorton. As co-author of the 2005 National Academy of Sciences report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, Richardson called for the US to ensure it remains globally competitive in science and technology.
- 1 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...