@Scientists, Family and Childhood
J. Georg Bednorz born at
He is married to fellow scientist, Mechthild Wennemer, whom he first met in 1974 during their time together at the University of Münster.
Johannes Georg Bednorz was born in Neuenkirchen, North-Rhine Westphalia, in the Federal Republic of Germany on May 16, 1950, as the fourth child of Anton and Elisabeth Bednorz. His father was a primary school teacher while his mother taught piano.
When he was a young boy, his parents tried to make him interested in music. But he was more interested in tinkering with his elder brothers’ motorcycles and cars. However, he became interested in music during his teenage.
He loved science—especially chemistry—from a young age. In 1968, he enrolled at the University of Münster to study chemistry but did not enjoy the experience. So he shifted his major to crystallography, a field of mineralogy.
He was a bright student. In 1972, his teachers, Wolfgang Hoffmann and Horst Böhm, arranged for him to spend the summer at the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory as a visiting student. There he met K. Alex Müller, the head of the physics department who would become his collaborator in future.
Deeply inspired by his intellectually-stimulating stay and work at Zurich, he returned in 1973 and again in 1974, for a period of six months. During this time he grew crystals of SrTiO3, a ceramic material belonging to the family of perovskites, and received much encouragement for his work from Müller.
Following his doctorate he joined the IBM Zürich Research Laboratory to work with Müller on the latter’s studies of superconductivity. In 1983, the two men began their systematic study on the investigation of metallic oxides with the goal to develop superconductors with high transition temperatures.
Over the course of their study they experimented on the electrical properties of ceramics formed from transition metal oxides. It was Bednorz who was the experimenter in charge of the actual making and testing of the oxides.
By 1986, they had succeeded in inducing superconductivity in a lanthanum barium copper oxide (LaBaCuO, also known as LBCO). The oxide’s critical temperature was 35 K, a full 12 K higher than the highest temperature at which superconductivity had previously been achieved in any substance.
Their discovery generated a great deal of interest in high-temperature superconductivity, leading to a lot of additional research on cuprate materials with structures similar to LBCO, soon leading to the discovery of compounds such as BSCCO and YBCO.
The two scientists’ groundbreaking work earned them the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1987. In the same year Bednorz was appointed an IBM Fellow.
Georg Bednorz, in collaboration with Alex Müller, discovered high-temperature superconductors, materials that behave as superconductors at unusually high temperatures. Bednorz was the experimenter in charge of the actual making and testing of the oxides that were used in the experiments leading to this discovery.