Robert Coleman Richardson Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Robert Coleman Richardson

Birthday :

June 26, 1937

Died On :

February 19, 2013

Birth Place :

Washington, D.C., United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Chinese Zodiac :


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Robert Coleman Richardson was an American experimental physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physicist in 1996. Born on June 26, 1937, Robert Coleman Richardson shared the award with David Lee and Douglas Osheroff then a graduate student for their research work and discovery of superfluidity in helium-3 at the Cornell University Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics in 1972. Robert Coleman Richardson's main area of research was included the sub-millikelvin temperature studies of helium-3.

His earliest research work was on studying the quantum properties of liquids and solids at very low temperature using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Aside from his research work, Robert Coleman Richardson served as the vice provost for research at Cornell University from 1998 to 2007. Robert Coleman Richardson later from 2007 to 2009 became a senior adviser to the president and provost of the university. Robert Coleman Richardson was the Floyd Newman Professor of Physics at Cornell University at the time of his death.

Early Life

Robert Coleman Richardson was born on June 26, 1937, in Washington D.C. to Robert Franklin Richardson and Lois Price Richardson. Robert Coleman Richardson was the elder of two children by his parents, and his sister was Addie Ann Richardson. He received his elementary education at Walter Reed. Robert Coleman Richardson joined the Boy Scouts with influence from his parents and within a short time became an Eagle Scout. Robert Coleman Richardson continued with high school at Washington-Lee in Arlington, Virginia. Robert Coleman Richardson termed the math and science training there as nothing exceptional as the idea of advance placement was not available then. According to him, the biology and physics courses were outmoded and did not have the chance to study calculus until his sophomore.

In 1954, Robert Coleman Richardson enrolled at the Virginia Tech, where he started with electrical engineering, which he quitted to study chemistry. He was also not successful with that because of his color blindness and so moved to major in physics. He graduated with a B.S in 1958 and continued with his M.S, which he completed in 1960. In 1965, Richardson received his Ph.D. in physics from the Duke University.


Robert Coleman Richardson picked a job at the National Bureau of Standards during his college days. He was at the Electricity Division, which calibrated electrical resistance standards of jobs from power companies. His time at the NBS became learning grounds for his future research works. After his Ph.D., he spent another at Duke University as a research associate. Robert Coleman Richardson then moved to the Cornell University to work at the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics in 1966 where Robert Coleman Richardson would work for thirty years.

While there, he worked with John Reppy and David Lee on low temperature. This research eventually won him the Nobel Prize in Physic along with David Lee and Douglas Osheroff then a graduate student in 1972, for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3 at the Cornell University Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics in 1972

Personal Life

Robert Coleman Richardson was married to Betty McCarthy in 1962. The couple met in 1962 at Duke University as graduate students. They were blessed with two daughters, Jennifer and Pamela. Pamela died of heart failure in 1994.

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