True Genius: The Life and Science of John Bardeen
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Amabile, T. Google Scholar. Bardeen, A. Bardeen, J. Brattain, W. Cartwright, N. Csikszentmihalyi, M. Dunbar, K. Feist, G. CrossRef Google Scholar. Gardner, H.
Giere, R. Geison, G. Gruber, H. Harmor, A. Appleton-Century Company , p. Hoddeson, L. Holmes, F. Kuhn, T. Langley, P. Nersessian, N. Pines, D. Hoddeson and V.
The quiet man of physics
Yet, as the authors emphasize, his fundamental scientific contributions were of comparable importance. So how was it that Bardeen and his young collaborators were able to solve the riddle of superconductivity? His instinct that a new mathematical approach was required, his intuition that it might arise out of an improved understanding of the polaron problem, and his realization that it was essential to sort out the combined role of the electron-electron and electron-phonon interactions all played a part.
So did his focus on the behaviour of a few electrons outside the Fermi sea, together with his willingness and ability to learn new mathematical techniques. Equally important was his total dedication to cracking the problem, and the encouragement, support and freedom to pursue their own ideas that he gave to his younger colleagues, who played key roles in the development of the theory. The resulting BCS theory is arguably one of the major contributions to physics in the 20th century.
It not only solved the riddle of superconductivity, but also had a lasting impact on the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics and particle physics. What if — rather than continuing with engineering at Madison and then going into industry for three years — he had been successful in his application to Trinity College, Cambridge, for one of their coveted fellowships? What if — as a consequence of incorrect experimental results — Eugene Wigner had not become discouraged about understanding nuclear physics in and therefore not spent three critical years studying condensed matter?
Would Bardeen have been able to solve superconductivity if he had stayed at Bell Labs? Lillian Hoddeson and Vicki Daitch mostly get John Bardeen right, which makes the book a great read and a valuable contribution to the history of present-day physics. As his first postdoc from to , and as a physics colleague who occupied the adjoining office from to , I spent much of my scientific career in close proximity to John.
Hoddeson and Daitch have done a first-rate job in describing these issues and in chronicling the first half of his life up to his move to Illinois in Where there is room for improvement is in their description of that second half of his career, from his early days at Urbana to the development of the BCS theory and the theory of mixtures of helium-3 and helium-4, and on the nature of his leadership role in condensed matter in Urbana.
I would have preferred more on the unique scientific environment that he found, nurtured and perpetuated there. It is a story that remains to be told at the level achieved by George Johnson in Strange Beauty — his meticulously researched biography of Murray Gell-Mann — in which the science and the person are equally well described. Browse all. Buyer's Guide Jobs Sign in Register. Type to search. Topics Astronomy and space Atomic and molecular Biophysics and bioengineering Condensed matter Culture, history and society Environment and energy Instrumentation and measurement Materials Mathematics and computation Medical physics Optics and photonics Particle and nuclear Quantum.
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John Bardeen: the greatest physicist you (probably) never heard of - BBC Science Focus Magazine
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