Biography:Heinrich Rohrer

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Short description: Swiss physicist (1933–2013)
Heinrich Rohrer
Heinrich Rohrer in 2008
Buchs, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Died16 May 2013(2013-05-16) (aged 79)
Wollerau, Switzerland
Known forScanning tunneling microscope[1]
Scanning probe microscopy
AwardsEPS Europhysics Prize (1984)
King Faisal Prize (1984)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1986)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1987)
Fritz London Memorial Lecture (1992)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Tohoku University

Heinrich Rohrer (6 June 1933 – 16 May 2013) was a Swiss physicist who shared half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with Gerd Binnig for the design of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.[2][3][4][5] The Heinrich Rohrer Medal is presented triennially by the Surface Science Society of Japan with IBM Research – Zurich, Swiss Embassy in Japan, and Ms. Rohrer in his memory.[6][7] The medal is not to be confused with the Heinrich Rohrer Award presented at the Nano Seoul 2020 conference.[8]


Rohrer was born in Buchs, St. Gallen half an hour after his twin sister. He enjoyed a carefree country childhood until the family moved to Zürich in 1949. He enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in 1951, where he was student of Wolfgang Pauli and Paul Scherrer. His PhD thesis was supervised by P. Grassmann who worked on cryogenic engineering. Rohrer measured the length changes of superconductors at the magnetic-field-induced superconducting transition, a project begun by Jørgen Lykke Olsen. In the course of his research, he found that he had to do most of his research at night after the city was asleep because his measurements were so sensitive to vibration.

His studies were interrupted by his military service in the Swiss mountain infantry. In 1961, he married Rose-Marie Egger. Their honeymoon trip to the United States included a stint doing research on thermal conductivity of type-II superconductors and metals with Bernie Serin at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In 1963, he joined the IBM Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon under the direction of Ambros Speiser. The first couple of years at IBM, he studied Kondo systems with magnetoresistance in pulsed magnetic fields. He then began studying magnetic phase diagrams, which eventually brought him into the field of critical phenomena.

In 1974, he spent a sabbatical year at the University of California in Santa Barbara, California studying nuclear magnetic resonance with Vince Jaccarino and Alan King.[citation needed]

Until 1982 he worked on the scanning tunneling microscope. He was appointed IBM Fellow in 1986, and led the physics department of the research lab from 1986 until 1988. Rohrer was elected as an honourable member of the Swiss Physical Society in 1990 and an honorary academician of Academia Sinica in 2008.[9]


Rohrer died of natural causes on 16 May 2013 at his home in Wollerau, Switzerland, aged 79.[10][11]


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named nobit
  2. Miss nobel-id as parameter , accessed 20 April 2020 including the Nobel Lecture, December 8, 1986 Scanning Tunneling Microscopy – From Birth to Adolescence
  3. Weiss, P. S. (2013). "Dr. Heinrich Rohrer (1933–2013), Founding Father of Nanotechnology". ACS Nano 7 (6): 4693. doi:10.1021/nn402978h. PMID 23799298. 
  4. Weiss, P. S. (2007). "A Conversation withDr. Heinrich Rohrer: STM Co-inventor and One of the Founding Fathers of Nanoscience". ACS Nano 1 (1): 3–5. doi:10.1021/nn7001294. PMID 19203123. 
  5. Robinson, A. L. (1986). "Electron Microscope Inventors Share Nobel Physics Prize: Ernst Ruska built the first electron microscope in 1931; Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer developed the scanning tunneling microscope 50 years later". Science 234 (4778): 821–822. doi:10.1126/science.234.4778.821. PMID 17758103. Bibcode1986Sci...234..821R. 
  6. "The Heinrich Rohrer Medal". Japan Society of Vacuum and Surface Science. 
  7. "Heinrich Rohrer Medal". Japan Society of Vacuum and Surface Science. 
  8. "Leadership And Development Award". "Nano Seoul 2020 appreciates the effort of gathering the professionals by presenting a Heinrich Rohrer Award." 
  9. "Heinrich Rohrer". Academia Sinica. 
  10. "Heinrich Rohrer dies at 79; a father of nanotechnology". LA Times. 2013-05-24.,0,6312102.story. 
  11. Heinrich Rohrer obituary, The Economist June 2013

External links

  • Miss nobel-id as parameter including the Nobel Lecture, December 8, 1986 Scanning Tunneling Microscopy – From Birth to Adolescence