Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Owen Willans Richardson
Born: 26 April 1879, Dewsbury, United Kingdom
Died: 15 February 1959, Alton, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: London University, London, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him."
Owen Willans Richardson received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1929.
Prize share: 1/1
When a metal wire becomes hot and starts to glow, the air around the wire becomes electrically charged. This phenomenon was used earlier to amplify electrical signals in telephone lines and other applications. In 1901 Owen Richardson explained the phenomenon, declaring that when metal becomes hot, the electrons in the metal become so agitated that they are liberated from their atoms and cast into the air where they act as free charged particles. Richardson also formulated a law that describes the relationship between emissions of electrons and temperature.