Brian David Josephson

  • From:

    University of Cambridge │ Cambridge, England

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  • Citation:

    For the Josephson effect and theory of matter at low temperatures.

Brian Josephson was born in 1940 in Cardiff, Wales. While a 22-year-old graduate student, he discovered the Josephson effect.

Josephson studied physics at Trinity College, Cambridge, receiving his bachelor's (1960) and master's and Ph.D. degrees (1964) there, publishing his first work while still an undergraduate; it dealt with certain aspects of the special theory of relativity and the Mossbauer effect. He was elected a fellow of Trinity College in 1962. While still an undergraduate, Josephson became interested in superconductivity, and he began to explore the properties of a junction between two superconductors that later came to be known as a Josephson junction. Josephson extended earlier work in tunneling, the phenomenon by which electrons functioning as radiated waves can penetrate solids. He showed theoretically that tunneling between two superconductors could have very special characteristics, such as flow across an insulating layer without the application of a voltage; if a voltage is applied, the current stops flowing and oscillates at high frequency. This was the Josephson effect.

Applying Josephson's discoveries with superconductors, researchers at IBM Corporation had assembled by 1980 an experimental computer switch structure, which would permit switching speeds from 10 to 100 times faster than those possible with conventional silicon-based chips, vastly increasing data processing capabilities.

Josephson became a research professor at the University of Illinois from 1965-66 and in 1967 returned to Cambridge as assistant director of research. He was appointed reader in physics in 1972 and professor of physics in 1974. In 1974, when he won the Nobel Prize in Physics, he was just 34 years old. Josephson's interests expanded to include the possible relevance of Eastern mysticism to scientific understanding. Today he is the director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project of the Theory of Condensed Matter Group at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, a project concerned primarily with the attempt to understand, from the viewpoint of the theoretical physicist, what may loosely be characterized as intelligent processes in nature associated with brain function or with some other natural process.

Information as of 1980