Michael Tinkham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Michael Tinkham
BornFebruary 23, 1928
DiedNovember 4, 2010(2010-11-04) (aged 82)
Alma materMIT
Spouse(s)Mary Tinkham
ChildrenGrandchildren: Addie Tinkham and Alden Tinkham
AwardsOliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1974)
Fred E. Saalfeld Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Science (2005)
Scientific career
FieldsCondensed Matter Physics
InstitutionsHarvard University
University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral advisorM. W. P. Strandberg

Michael Tinkham (February 23, 1928 – November 4, 2010) was an American physicist. He was Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Research Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard University.[1] He is best known for his work on superconductivity.[2][3][4][5][6]

Professional life[edit]

Michael Tinkham studied at Ripon College (BA 1951) in Wisconsin, near where he grew up, and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Master's Degree 1951), where he graduated in 1954 with a PhD. During 1954/55 he was at the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University. In 1955 he went to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957 becoming an Assistant Professor, and later a Full Professor. In 1966 he joined the faculty at Harvard University. During 1978/79 he was a Humboldt U.S. Senior Scientist at the University of Karlsruhe. Michael Tinkham's research was concentrated on superconductivity and in 1975 he published one of the classic textbooks[5] on the subject. Later he has focused on material properties where sample dimensions are in the nanometer range, including studies of nanowires and carbon nanotubes.

In 1970 he was made a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1974 he received the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize. Prof. Tinkham was awarded the Fred E. Saalfeld Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Science in 2005.[7] He has also been honored for his achievements by his colleagues in the Journal of Superconductivity.

Work on superconductivity[edit]

In 1956, Tinkham and a fellow postdoc Rolfe Glover found the direct evidence of an energy gap in the continuous distribution of energy levels in the form of a sharp rise in the optical absorption spectrum of a superconductor.[2] The absorption spectrum observed was a direct consequence of the coherence factors of the BCS theory of John Bardeen, and along with other observations, provided the first substantive experimental confirmation of the BCS theory.

Tinkham also studied the macroscopic quantum behaviour of superconductors, and examined the conditions under which transitions between different energy levels happen when superconductors are carrying a current.


  1. ^ Michael Tinkham, superconductivity pioneer, passes away at 82, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  2. ^ a b Beasley, M. (2010). "Michael Tinkham (1928–2010)". Nature. 468 (7325): 766. Bibcode:2010Natur.468..766B. doi:10.1038/468766a. PMID 21150984.
  3. ^ Ginsberg, D. M. (2004). "Recollections: Michael Tinkham: The Early Years". Journal of Superconductivity. 17 (5): 673–674. Bibcode:2004JSup...17..673G. doi:10.1007/s10948-004-0780-1.
  4. ^ Ralph, D. (1999). "In Honor of Professor Michael Tinkham's 70th Birthday". Journal of Superconductivity. 12 (3): 529–530. Bibcode:1999JSup...12..529R. doi:10.1023/A:1007736302349.
  5. ^ a b Tinkham, Michael (2004). Introduction to Superconductivity. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-43503-2.
  6. ^ Tinkham, Michael (2003). Group Theory and Quantum Mechanics. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-43247-5.
  7. ^ Clarke, John (2015). Michael Tinkham, 1928-2010 (Biographical Memoirs) (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 15 January 2016.