(1853–1926) Dutch physicist
Born at Groningen in the Netherlands, Kamerlingh-Onnes was educated at the university there, obtaining his doctorate in 1879. In 1882 he was appointed professor of physics at Leiden, where he remained for the rest of his career. There he started the study of low-temperature physics, at first in order to gather experimental evidence for the atomic theory of matter. However, his interest turned to the problems involved in reaching extremely low temperatures and, in 1908, he became the first to succeed in liquefying helium. Matter at low temperatures – only a few degrees above absolute zero – has such strange properties that a completely new field of cryogenic physics was opened up. The first of these properties to be studied was superconductivity, which Kamerlingh-Onnes discovered in 1911. This phenomenon involves the total loss of resistance by certain metals at low temperatures.
Kamerlingh-Onnes was elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Amsterdam for this research and, in 1913, was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics.