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The Emergence of Solid-State Physics

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Abstract

Solid-state physics, or as it is often called today, “condensed matter” physics, is the science of the properties of liquids and solids. Since it is less glamorous than, say, cosmology, the public has barely noticed it. Even physicists themselves have only slowly appreciated its importance. Yet this indifferent attitude is puzzling. In fact, the study of the solid state is replete with bizarre and extraordinary occurrences. Some metals, for example, at very low temperatures display a bewildering array of properties including superconductivity, the striking ability of some substances to lose all resistance to the passage of electrical current.

Keywords

Nobel Prize Nobel Laureate Superconducting Material Outer Electron German Physicist 
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Endnotes

  1. 1.
    For a good discussion of solid-state physics in antiquity, see Gregory H. Vannier, “The Solid State,” as reproduced in The Scientific American Reader (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1953), pp. 140–152.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pauling interview by John Heilbron, Pasadena, March 27, 1964, from the Niels Bohr Library, American Institute of Physics.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Probably the best discussion of Van Vleck’s work is P. W. Anderson, “Van Vleck and Magnetism,” Physics Today, October 1968.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. H. Van Vleck, “Reminiscences of the First Decade of Quantum Mechanics,” International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, 1971, p. 5.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E. U. Condon and P. M. Morse, Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1929).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Nobel Prize Winners (H. W. Wilson, New York, 1987), p. 150.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    P W. Anderson to author, Private correspondence, September 21, 1988.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    To Peter Adams, editor of The Physical Review, 1984, personal letter.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    J. Slater, “Electrical Energy Bands in Metals,” The Physical Review, 1934, p. 45.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J. Slater, “The Theory of Complex Spectra,” The Physical Review, 1929, p. 34.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Slater to an unidentified person, personal letter of April 11, 1931.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    W. A. Little, “Superconductivity at Room Temperature,” Scientific American, February 1965.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Roland W. Schmitt, “The Discovery of Electron Tunneling into Superconductors,” Physics Today, December 1961.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See John C. Slater, “Energy Bands in Solids,” Physics Today, April 1968;Google Scholar
  15. 14a.
    for a striking example of Slater’s strong views on the role of computation in problems in solid-state physics, see also John C. Slater, “Quantum Physics in America Between the Wars,” Physics Today, January 1968.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    For a discussion of Shockley’s work, see Lillian Hartmann Hoddeson, “The Roots of Solid-State Research at Bell Labs,” Physics Today, March 1977.Google Scholar

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© Anthony Serafini 1993

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