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Heike Kamerlingh Onnes

Heike Kamerlingh OnnesBorn: 21-Sep-1853
Birthplace: Groningen, Netherlands
Died: 21-Feb-1926
Location of death: Leiden, Netherlands
Cause of death: Illness

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Netherlands
Executive summary: Liquefied helium and discovered superconductivity

Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes was the first scientist to liquefy helium, the coldest gaseous coolant, accomplishing this in his low-temperature physics lab in 1908. This set the stage for his best-known work, the discovery of superconductivity three years later. Superconductivity is the phenomenon in which certain metals including lead and mercury show decreasing and finally no electrical resistance as temperatures approach absolute zero (0 Kelvin or -273.15 Celsius).

Kamerlingh Onnes also conducted research that added evidence for the atomic theory of matter, and his doctoral thesis (1879) provided a new and simplified proof of the earth's rotation. He studied under Robert Wilhelm Bunsen and Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, worked closely with Johannes Diderik van der Waals, and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1913. In press accounts of his time he was commonly called "The gentleman of absolute zero".

Father: Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (brickworks owner, b. 24-Jun-1819)
Mother: Anna Gerdina Coers (b. 12-Jul-1819, m. 1852)
Wife: Maria Adriana Wilhelmina Elisabeth Bijleveld (m. 8-Sep-1887, d. 7-Dec-1938, one son)
Son: Albert Kamerlingh Onnes (civil servant)

    High School: Groningen Hoogere Burgerschool, Groningen, Netherlands (1870)
    University: BS equiv., University of Groningen (1871)
    University: University of Heidelberg (attended, 1871-73)
    University: MS equiv., University of Groningen (1878)
    University: PhD, University of Groningen (1879)
    Teacher: Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands (1878-82)
    Professor: Experimental Physics, University of Leiden (1882-1923)

    Matteucci Medal 1910
    Rumford Medal 1912
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1913
    Accademia dei Lincei
    Order of the Netherlands Lion Chevalier (1904)
    Order of the Netherlands Lion Commander (1923)
    Commander Cross of the Royal St. Olaf Order
    Franklin Institute Foreign Member
    French Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Royal Institution of Great Britain Foreign Member
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences 1913
    Royal Society Foreign Member (1916)
    Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1926)
    Dutch Ancestry

Author of books:
Through Measurement to Knowledge: Selected Papers of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1991, papers)


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