David M. Lee
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1996
Born: 20 January 1931, Rye, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3."
Prize share: 1/3
When certain substances are cooled to extremely low temperatures, they become superfluid, flowing without any friction. This applies to helium-4, the most common form of helium, but for a long time the superfluidity of helium-3 was in dispute. The different types of helium are described by different quantum mechanical rules and equations under which helium-4 has a whole-number spin while helium-3 has a half-number spin. In 1972 David Lee, Douglas Osheroff, and Robert Richardson verified that helium-3 also becomes superfluid at extremely low temperatures.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.