John Robert Schrieffer
John Robert Schrieffer is an American physicist and, with John Bardeen
John Bardeen
John Bardeen was an American physicist and electrical engineer, the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice: first in 1956 with William Shockley and Walter Brattain for the invention of the transistor; and again in 1972 with Leon Neil Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer for a...

 and Leon N Cooper, recipient of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Physics for developing the BCS theory
BCS theory
BCS theory — proposed by Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer in 1957 — is the first microscopic theory of superconductivity since its discovery in 1911. The theory describes superconductivity as a microscopic effect caused by a "condensation" of pairs of electrons into a boson-like state...

, the first successful microscopic theory of superconductivity
Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance occurring in certain materials below a characteristic temperature. It was discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes on April 8, 1911 in Leiden. Like ferromagnetism and atomic spectral lines, superconductivity is a quantum...



Schrieffer was born in Oak Park, Illinois
Oak Park, Illinois
Oak Park, Illinois is a suburb bordering the west side of the city of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is the twenty-fifth largest municipality in Illinois. Oak Park has easy access to downtown Chicago due to public transportation such as the Chicago 'L' Blue and Green lines,...

, and his family moved in 1940 to Manhasset, New York
Manhasset, New York
Manhasset is a hamlet and neighborhood in Nassau County, New York, on the North Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2010 Census, the population was 8,080....

, and then in 1947 to Eustis, Florida
Eustis, Florida
Eustis is a city in Lake County, Florida, United States. The population was 15,106 at the 2000 census. The Census Bureau estimated the population in 2008 to be 19,129. It is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:...

, where his father a former pharmaceutical salesman began a career in the citrus industry. In his Florida days, Schrieffer enjoyed playing with homemade rockets and ham radio, a hobby that sparked an interest in electrical engineering.

After graduating from Eustis High School in 1949, Schrieffer was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

, where for two years he majored in electrical engineering before switching to physics in his junior year. He completed a bachelor's thesis on multiplets in heavy atoms under the direction of John C. Slater
John C. Slater
John Clarke Slater was a noted American physicist who made major contributions to the theory of the electronic structure of atoms, molecules and solids. This work is of ongoing importance in chemistry, as well as in many areas of physics. He also made major contributions to microwave electronics....

 in 1953. Pursuing an interest in solid-state physics, Schrieffer began graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

, where he was hired immediately as a research assistant to John Bardeen. After working out a theoretical problem of electrical conduction on semiconductor surfaces, Schrieffer spent a year in the laboratory, applying the theory to several surface problems. In his third year of graduate studies, he joined Bardeen and Leon Cooper in developing the theory of superconductivity.

Schrieffer recalls that in January 1957 he was on a subway in New York City when he had an idea of how to describe mathematically the ground state of superconducting atoms. Schrieffer and Bardeen’s collaborator Cooper had discovered that electrons in a superconductor are grouped in pairs, now called Cooper pairs, and that the motions of all Cooper pairs within a single superconductor are correlated and function as a single entity. Schrieffer’s mathematical breakthrough was to describe the behavior of all Cooper pairs at the same time instead of each individual pair. The day after returning to Illinois, Schrieffer showed his equations to Bardeen who immediately realized they were the solution to the problem. The BCS theory (Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer) of superconductivity, as it is now known, accounted for more than 30 years of experimental results that had stymied some of the greatest theorists in physics.

After completing his doctoral dissertation on the theory of superconductivity, Schrieffer spent the 1957-58 academic year as a National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 fellow at the University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is a British Redbrick university located in the city of Birmingham, England. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Birmingham Medical School and Mason Science College . Birmingham was the first Redbrick university to gain a charter and thus...

 in England and at the Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute
The Niels Bohr Institute is a research institute of the University of Copenhagen. The research of the institute spans astronomy, geophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and biophysics....

 in Copenhagen, where he continued research into superconductivity. Following a year as assistant professor at the University of Chicago, he returned to the University of Illinois in 1959 as a faculty member. In 1960, he went back to the Bohr Institute for a summer visit, during which he became engaged to Anne Grete Thomsen whom he married at Christmas of that year. Two years later, Schrieffer joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

 in Philadelphia, and, in 1964, Schrieffer published his book on the BCS theory, Theory of Superconductivity. He holds honorary degrees from the Technical University of Munich
Technical University of Munich
The Technische Universität München is a research university with campuses in Munich, Garching, and Weihenstephan...

 and the University of Geneva
University of Geneva
The University of Geneva is a public research university located in Geneva, Switzerland.It was founded in 1559 by John Calvin, as a theological seminary and law school. It remained focused on theology until the 17th century, when it became a center for Enlightenment scholarship. In 1873, it...

. In 1993 Schrieffer along with Leon Cooper were awarded the Comstock Prize in Physics
Comstock Prize in Physics
The Comstock Prize in Physics is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences "for recent innovative discovery or investigation in electricity, magnetism, or radiant energy, broadly interpreted."...

 from the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...


In 1972, Schrieffer along with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the BCS theory. In 1980, Schrieffer became a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara, commonly known as UCSB or UC Santa Barbara, is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. The main campus is located on a site in Goleta, California, from Santa Barbara and northwest of Los...

, and rose to chancellor professor in 1984, serving as director of the university’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics
Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics
The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics is a research institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara. KITP is one of the most renowned institutes for theoretical physics in the world. KITP programs bring theorists in physics and related fields together to work together on topics at...

. In 1992, Florida State University
Florida State University
The Florida State University is a space-grant and sea-grant public university located in Tallahassee, Florida, United States. It is a comprehensive doctoral research university with medical programs and significant research activity as determined by the Carnegie Foundation...

 appointed Schrieffer as a university eminent scholar professor and chief scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where he continued to pursue one of the great goals in physics: room temperature superconductivity.

Schrieffer was sentenced to two years in prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 November 6, 2005 for vehicular manslaughter killing one, and injuring seven people. At the time of the accident his drivers license was under suspension and he is said to have fallen asleep at the wheel. The accident occurred in Orcutt, California
Orcutt, California
Orcutt is an unincorporated township located in the Santa Maria Valley of California, and a census-designated place; it is in Santa Barbara County, California, United States. Orcutt is named for William W. Orcutt, the manager of the Geological, Land and Engineering Departments of the Union Oil...

 on September 24, 2004, and Schrieffer was incarcerated in Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility is a state prison located in unincorporated southern San Diego County, California, near San Diego. Its is a part of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It is a facility. It is the only state prison in San Diego County...

 at Rock Mountain near San Diego, California
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...


See also

External links

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