John Bardeen was an established force in physics when he joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1951. While working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, he became interested in semiconductors and with W. H. Brattain discovered the transistor effect in late 1947. At Illinois, Bardeen established two major research programs, one in the Physics Department focusing on theoretical aspects of macroscopic quantum systems, particularly superconductivity and quantum liquids, and one in the Electrical Engineering Department dealing with both experimental and theoretical aspects of semiconductors.
The microscopic theory of superconductivity, developed in collaboration with L. N. Cooper and J. R. Schrieffer in 1956 and 1957, has had profound implications for nearly every field of physics, from elementary particle to nuclear and the helium liquids to neutron stars. During his 60-year scientific career, Bardeen made significant contributions to almost every aspect of condensed matter physics, from his early work on the electronic behavior of metals, the surface properties of semiconductors, and the theory of diffusion of atoms in crystals to his later work on quasi-one-dimensional metals. In his 83rd year, he continued to publish original scientific papers.
Bardeen maintained active interests in engineering and technology over the course of his career. He began consulting for the Xerox Corporation in 1951. He later served on the Xerox board of directors. He also consulted with General Electric Corporation for many years and with several other technology firms.
The only person to win two Nobel Prizes in Physics (1956 and 1972), Bardeen was a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He served on the U.S. President’s Science Advisory Committee from 1959 to 1962 and on the White House Science Council in 1981. He was a recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science (1965) and the Lomonosov Award (Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1987). Bardeen was named by Life Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Adapted from the website of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois.
Nobel Prize in Physics, 1956
Nobel Prize in Physics, 1972
Honorary Degree, 1974