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1977: Nevill Francis Mott (1905-1996)

Nobel Prize in Physics 1977 (jointly with Philip Warren Anderson and John Hasbrouck van Vleck)

"for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems"

Nevill Mott came to St John’s as an undergraduate in 1924 and took his BA in Mathematics in 1927. After a period of research, including a year as Lecturer at the University of Manchester, he returned to Cambridge to become Lecturer in Mathematics and a Fellow of Gonville & Caius College. In 1933 he took up the position of Melville Wills Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Bristol, a position he held for fifteen years until being named Henry Overton Wills Professor of Physics and Director of the Wills Laboratory, still at Bristol. In 1954, he returned again to Cambridge, now as Cavendish Professor of Physics, and held the chair until 1971, a period which also saw him serve as Master of Gonville and Caius (1959-66).

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1936, he went on to receive many of its top awards: Hughes Medal in 1936 “For his fertile application of the principles of quantum theory to many branches of physics, especially in the fields of nuclear and collision theory, in the theory of metals and in the theory of photographic emulsions”; Royal Medal “In recognition of his eminent work in the field of quantum theory and particularly in the theory of metals” and Bakerian Lecture “Dislocations, plastic flow and creep in metals” in 1953; and it’s most prestigious award, the Copley Medal, in 1972 “In recognition of his original contributions over a long period to atomic and solid state physics”.

Amongst his other honours, he was Knighted in 1962 and made Companion of Honour in 1995. He was awarded the Faraday Medal by the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1973. He was elected Honorary Fellow here at St John’s in 1964, and was also an Honorary Fellow of Darwin College (1977) and Imperial College, London (1978).