Biography:Robert Coleman Richardson

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Short description: American physicist
Robert Coleman Richardson
Robert Coleman Richardson.jpg
Born(1937-06-26)June 26, 1937
DiedFebruary 19, 2013(2013-02-19) (aged 75)
Ithaca, New York, U.S.
Alma materVirginia Tech (B.S., M.S.)
Duke University (Ph.D.)
Known forDiscovering superfluidity in helium-3
AwardsSimon Memorial Prize (1976)
Buckley Prize (1981)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1996)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCornell University
Doctoral advisorHorst Meyer

Robert Coleman Richardson (June 26, 1937 – February 19, 2013)[1] was an American experimental physicist whose area of research included sub-millikelvin temperature studies of helium-3. Richardson, along with David Lee, as senior researchers, and then graduate student Douglas Osheroff, shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics for their 1972 discovery of the property of superfluidity in helium-3 atoms in the Cornell University Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics.[2][3][4]

Richardson was born in Washington D.C. He went to high school at Washington-Lee in Arlington, Virginia. He later described Washington-Lee's biology and physics courses as "very old-fashioned" for the time. "The idea of 'advanced placement' had not yet been invented," he wrote in his Nobel Prize autobiography. He took his first calculus course when he was a sophomore in college.[5]

Richardson attended Virginia Tech and received a B.S. in 1958 and a M.S. in 1960. He received his PhD from Duke University in 1965.


At the time of his death, he was the Floyd Newman Professor of Physics at Cornell University, although he no longer operated a laboratory. From 1998 to 2007 he served as Cornell's vice provost for research, and from 2007 to 2009 was senior science adviser to the president and provost. His past experimental work focused on using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to study the quantum properties of liquids and solids at extremely low temperatures.

Richardson was an Eagle Scout, and mentioned the Scouting activities of his youth in the biography he submitted to the Nobel Foundation at the time of his award.[1]

Richardson claimed that he did not believe in an anthropomorphic God, but it is unclear what specific beliefs he held.[6]

Personal life

Richardson was born to Robert Franklin Richardson, a telephone engineer.[7] He married Betty Marilyn McCarthy, a fellow physicals PhD student from Duke, on 29 Sep 1962 at the Immaculate Conception Catholic church in Durham, North Carolina.[8]

Awards and honors

  • Simon Memorial Prize (1976)
  • Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1981)
  • Nobel Prize in Physics (1996)[7]
  • Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1997)[9]
  • Elected member of the American Philosophical Society (2001)[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Biography". Nobel Foundation. 
  2. Osheroff, DD; RC Richardson; DM Lee (1972). "Evidence for a New Phase of Solid He3". Physical Review Letters 28 (14): 885–888. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.28.885. Bibcode1972PhRvL..28..885O. 
  3. Osheroff, DD; WJ Gully; RC Richardson; DM Lee (1972). "New Magnetic Phenomena in Liquid He3 below 3mK". Physical Review Letters 29 (14): 920–923. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.29.920. Bibcode1972PhRvL..29..920O. 
  4. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1996". The Nobel Prize in Physics. Nobel Foundation. 2007. 
  5. Chang, Kenneth (2013-02-22). "Robert C. Richardson, 75, Laureate in Physics, Dies". The New York Times: p. B14. 
  6. Jonathan Pararajasingham, ed (2011). "50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God". "But, I do not believe in an anthropomorphic god..." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Robert Richardson: Physicist who won a Nobel Prize for elucidating the very strange properties of superfluid helium-3" (in en). The Daily Telegraph: pp. 33. 22 Feb 2013. 
  8. "Couple to Wed this Saturday Feted at Party" (in en). The Herald-Sun: pp. 6. 24 Sep 1962. 
  9. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement. 
  10. "APS Member History". 

External links