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Robert C. Richardson

Robert C. RichardsonAKA Robert Coleman Richardson

Born: 26-Jun-1937
Birthplace: Washington, DC
Died: 19-Feb-2013
Location of death: Ithaca, NY
Cause of death: Heart Attack

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Superfluidity of helium-3

Military service: US Army (Ordnance Corps, 1959-60)

American physicist Robert C. Richardson won the Nobel Prize in 1996, sharing the honor with David M. Lee and Douglas D. Osheroff, for their 1972 collaborative discovery of superfluidity in helium-3. A rare form of the elemental gas, helium-3 becomes a superfluid only when chilled to almost unimaginably cold temperatures 2 millikelvin, or two thousandths of a degree above absolute zero.

Superfluidity makes a liquid behave very strangely, operating under the rules of quantum mechanics instead of ordinary physics. Superfluids can, for example, flow upwards, spilling out of a container through the top instead of being held down by the force of gravity. This and other aspects of their findings were so bizarre and challenging to conventional physics that their paper, now recognized as a major breakthrough in low-temperature physics, was originally rejected for publication. Their discovery has led to two new areas of research in condensed matter physics, heavy fermions and high temperature superconductivity.

Father: Robert Franklin Richardson (electrical lineman)
Mother: Lois Price Richardson (m. 1935)
Sister: Addie Ann Richardson (6. b-May-1939)
Wife: Betty Marilyn McCarthy (physicist, m. 29-Sep-1963, two daughters)
Daughter: Jennifer (rock musician, b. 4-Jan-1965)
Daughter: Pamela (b. 12-May-1966, d. 1994 heart failure)

    High School: Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, VA (1954)
    University: BS Physics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1958)
    University: MS Physics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1960)
    Professor: PhD Physics, Duke University (1966)
    Teacher: Physics, Cornell University (1966-75)
    Professor: Physics, Cornell University (1975-87)
    Professor: F. R. Newman Professor of Physics, Cornell University (1987-)
    Administrator: Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, Cornell University (1990-97)

    Eagle Scout
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1975-76
    IOP Sir Francis Simon Memorial Award 1976 (with D. Lee and D. Osheroff)
    APS Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize 1981 (with D. Lee and D. Osheroff)
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1982-83
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1996 (with David M. Lee and Douglas D. Osheroff)
    Bell Laboratories Visiting Scientist (1984)
    National Institute of Standards and Technology Summers during college (1956-58)
    Journal of Low Temperature Physics Editorial Board (1984-)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science 1981
    American Physical Society 1983
    Boy Scouts of America
    Finnish Academy of Science and Arts Foreign Member, 1993
    Institute of Physics Foreign Member
    International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
    National Academy of Sciences 1986
    National Academy of Sciences Committee on Human Rights
    National Science Foundation
    Reserve Officers Training Corps
    Science Debate 2008

Author of books:
College Physics (2003, physics, with Alan Giambattista and Betty Richardson)
Experimental Techniques in Condensed Matter Physics at LowTemperatures (1988, physics, with Eric N. Smith)

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