Heike Kamerlingh Onne's Discovery of Superconductivity; March 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by de Bruyn Ouboter; 6 Page(s)
Superconductivity--the disappearance of resistance in an electric current--is one of nature¿s stranger phenomena. Ten years ago this month, in what some called the "Woodstock of physics," hundreds of scientists crowded into a ballroom at the New York City Hilton to receive hurried reports of superconductivity at much higher temperatures than ever previously reported. Thirty years before that, John Bardeen, Leon N. Cooper and J. Robert Schrieffer established the theoretical foundations that best explained superconductivity. Almost forgotten in the search for theory, and for materials that superconduct at ever higher temperatures, is the work of the brilliant experimental physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, superconductivity¿s discoverer.
Onnes was a man attracted to cold, which no doubt added to his enjoyment of the December day in Stockholm in 1913 when he received the Nobel Prize for Physics. His primary research goal was to quantify the behavior of gases at extremely low temperatures; the experimental program that allowed him to reach ever lower temperatures also led to the discovery of superconductivity.