Professor Robert Richardson

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BRIEFLY Physicist and Nobel laureate

Robert C Richardson, who died from complications of a heart attack on 19 February at the age of 75, was a Cornell University professor who shared a Nobel Prize for a key discovery in experimental physics. He and his fellow Cornell researchers David Lee and Douglas Osheroff were awarded the Nobel for 1996 for their 1971 work on low-temperature physics involving the isotope helium- 3.

They discovered that the helium-3 can be made to flow without resistance - a state called superfluidity - at about 0.002 of a degree above absolute zero. The discovery revolutionised the field of low-temperature physics, leading to major advances in the understanding of the hydrodynamics of intricately ordered systems, the microscopic theory of electrons in metals and the range of phenomena accessible to nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) probes. The discovery also had implications for astrophysics, from galaxy formation to the composition and nature of rotating neutron stars.

Richardson was born in Washington, DC in 1937 and attended Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, where he said the science classes were old-fashioned. …