Heike Kamerlingh Onnes

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes
(1853 - 1926)

Dutch physicist was graduated from the University of Groningen, receiving his Ph.D. in 1879 after having studied with Bunsen and Kirchhoff at Heidelberg (1871-1873). In his doctoral thesis, he gave both theoretical and experimental proofs that Foucault's well-known pendulum experiment should be considered as a special case of a large group of phenomena which can be used to prove the rotation of the Earth. Kamerlingh-Onnes taught at Polytechnic School at Delft (Netherlands) in 1880-1882, during which time he was in close contact with van der Waals, professor of physics in Amsterdam. Kamerlingh-Onnes became a professor of experimental physics at Leiden (1882-1924).

Kamerlingh-Onnes's main research goal was to gather experimental evidence for the atomic theory of matter and to give experimental support to van der Waals's corpuscular theory of gazes at low temperatures. He established the Cryogenic Laboratory at Leyden University (1894) which, using the Joule-Thomson effect, he produced liquid helium for the first time in 1908. Later, his pupils W. H. Keesom and W. J. de Haas conducted experiments in the same laboratory, which led them still closer to absolute zero. He studied the properties of materials at liquid helium temperatures, and discovered that metals such as lead and mercury lost all resistance when cooled to such temperatures, a phenomenon known as superconductivity (1911).

Kamerlingh-Onnes was elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam and received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1913 "for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia, to the production of liquid helium." The results of Kamerlingh Onnes' investigations were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Amsterdam, and also in the Communications from the Physical Laboratory at the University of Leyden.

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