Douglas D. Osheroff shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics with David M. Lee and Robert C. Richardson for their discovery of superfluidity in the isotope helium-3.
Doug Osheroff was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington, a logging town in the Pacific Northwest. There he attended public schools and spent his summers while in college working in a local paper mill. He did his undergraduate work at Caltech, receiving his B.S. in physics in 1967. His graduate work was done at Cornell University, where his Ph.D. thesis work resulted in the discovery of three superfluid phases of liqud 3He. These phases are neutral analogs to the superconductors, but with greater complexity in their order. Leaving Cornell in the fall of 1972, he spent the next fifteen years in the physical research division at AT&T Bell Laboratories, the last six as the head of their Low Temperature and Solid State Research Department. Here, in collaboration, he worked on the newly discovered superfluid phases of liquid 3He, the nature of nuclear spin order in solid 3He, and made the first observations of weak localization in thin disordered metallic films. In 1987 he came to Stanford University, along with his good friend Steven Chu (Secretary of U. S. Department of Energy). At Stanford, Osheroff is the J.G. Jackson and C.J. Wood Professor of Physics and the Gerhard Casper University Fellow for Undergraduate Education. His research there still focuses on the properties of condensed matter near the absolute zero of temperature. He has also served as chair of the Physics Department at Stanford from 1993-96, and again from 2001-04. In 2003 he served as a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which determined the causes of the accident that led to the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia during re-entry, on Feb. 1, 2003.
Osheroff has received numerous honors for his research. These include the Sir Francis Simon Memorial Award, the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize, the MacArthur Prize Fellowship Award, and the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physics. In 1991 Stanford University gave him their Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. Osheroff is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Douglas and his wife Phyllis enjoy classical music, hiking and photography. At Stanford University Osheroff shares his interest in photography by teaching a freshman seminar entitled “Technical Aspects of Photography”, and often uses his favorite photo images to decorate his lectures.