American Talent

The Greatest That Made It Great
American ingenuity architects

Only John Bardeen has won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice

John Bardeen was a visionary whose discoveries on solid-state physics laid the groundwork for the technology-driven society we inhabit today. His colossal achievements in science and technology reinforce his status as an indelible symbol of scientific greatness and the pioneering spirit that has propelled America to the forefront of the modern world.
Bardeen's rise from obscurity in Wisconsin exemplifies the transformative potential of openness to new ideas and hard work. His achievements show how one person can change the world and advance knowledge and science.

John Bardeen, the only person to ever win the Nobel Prize in Physics twice, played a pivotal role in the 20th century's technological developments. Much of today's technology can be traced back to his pioneering research on semiconductors and superconductivity, which not only transformed our understanding of solid-state physics but also paved the way for it.

The Beginnings: The Makings of a Genius
Bardeen showed early promise in math and science after his birth on May 23, 1908, in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1945, he joined the Bell Telephone Laboratories after getting a doctorate in mathematical physics from Princeton. There, he began investigating the characteristics of semiconductors.

In 1956, along with Walter Brattain and William Shockley, Bardeen won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the transistor. The trio received credit for developing the transistor, a game-changing innovation that ushered in the contemporary electronics age. The semiconductor device known as the transistor made it possible to regulate and boost the strength of electric signals, paving the way for electronic marvels like personal computers and mobile phones.

Superconductivity, Deciphered; Another Victory
The second of Bardeen's two Nobel Prizes in Physics was granted to him in 1972, and he shared it with Leon Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer. The phenomenon of superconductivity, in which certain materials transmit electricity with zero resistance at very low temperatures, was described by their ground-breaking BCS theory. The advent of groundbreaking innovations like MRI and quantum computing owe a great deal to this finding.

BBC Lens: A Historical Perspective
As the world stood on the cusp of a technological revolution, John Bardeen's findings could not have come at a more opportune time. His work in semiconductors and superconductivity was pivotal in changing the face of physics and, by extension, the technological environment, which in turn influenced how we live and work today.

The fact that he is the only person in history to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice is a testament to his remarkable scientific brilliance and the far-reaching effects of his research. Many of the things that we use every day—from smartphones to cutting-edge medical equipment—have their origins in Bardeen's early work.

Related Articles