, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 197-223

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes: Master of Experimental Technique and Quantitative Research

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Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926), born a century and a half ago, was a major protagonist in the so-called Second Golden Age of Dutch Science. He devoted his career to the emerging field of low-temperature physics. His particular concern was to test the theories of his older compatriot Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837-1923) by creating a style of research that was characterized by meticulous planning, precise measurement, and constant improvement of techniques and instruments. He made numerous contributions to low-temperature physics, but I focus on his liquefaction of helium, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1913, and on his discovery of superconductivity. He became known internationally as le gentleman du zéro absolu.