Heike Kamerlingh Onnes
Born: 21 September 1853, Groningen, the Netherlands
Died: 21 February 1926, Leiden, the Netherlands
Affiliation at the time of the award: Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands
Prize motivation: "for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia, to the production of liquid helium"
Prize share: 1/1
When different substances are cooled to very low temperatures, their properties change. In 1908 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes used an ingenious apparatus to cool helium to liquid form. Fluid helium was carefully studied and also became an important aid for the cooling of different substances and charting their properties at low temperatures. In 1911 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovered that the electrical resistance of mercury completely disappeared at temperatures a few degrees above absolute zero. The phenomenon became known as superconductivity.