Milestone-Proposal:The development of the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer Theory of Superconductivity

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Docket #:2022-23

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Development of the Theory of Superconductivity, 1957

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

The theoretical explanation of superconductivity, first experimentally demonstrated in 1911 by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, was one of the major physics puzzles of the 20th Century until John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and John Schrieffer, working in the Physics Department (now the Loomis Laboratory of Physics) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed a complete microscopic theory that explained this strange physical phenomenon. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1957 for this work.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Region 4, Central Illinois Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Electron Devices Society
Senior Officer Name: Ravi Todi

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Electron Devices Society
Senior Officer Name: Ravi Todi

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Central Illinois Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Jack Marck

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Russell Dupuis
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

1304 W Green St, Urbana, IL 61801 USA

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. UIUC Materials Science and Engineering Bldg (Originally Physics)

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Ground floor entrance

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?


Who is the present owner of the site(s)?


What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

from: The BCS theory was extremely successful, explaining in detail the mechanism of superconductivity and associated effects, and it agreed amazingly well with experimental data. “All of the hitherto puzzling features of superconductors fitted neatly together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,” Bardeen later recalled. BCS theory was quickly accepted as correct. The BCS theory works for conventional superconductors, but does not explain the high temperature superconductors first discovered 20 years ago, so puzzles still remain. However, BCS theory has had an impact far beyond superconductivity, as scientists have found states analogous to the BCS superconductor in astrophysics and nuclear physics.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

from: In 1911, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, in his quest to study materials at ever lower temperatures, happened to find that the electrical resistance of some metallic materials suddenly vanished at temperatures near absolute zero. He called the phenomenon superconductivity, and scientists soon found additional materials that exhibited this property.

But no one could completely explain how it worked. For the next few decades, many prominent physicists worked to develop a theory of the mechanism underlying superconductivity, but no one had much success, and some despaired of figuring it out. One such physicist, Felix Bloch, was quoted as proposing “Bloch’s theorem: Superconductivity is impossible.”

Richard Feynman also later recalled that he had “spent an awful lot of time in trying to understand it and doing everything by means of which I could approach it… I developed an emotional block against the problem of superconductivity, so that when I learned about the BCS paper I could not bring myself to read it for a long time.”

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

From Wikipedia: Rapid progress in the understanding of superconductivity gained momentum in the mid-1950s. It began with the 1948 paper, "On the Problem of the Molecular Theory of Superconductivity",[1] where Fritz London proposed that the phenomenological London equations may be consequences of the coherence of a quantum state. In 1953, Brian Pippard, motivated by penetration experiments, proposed that this would modify the London equations via a new scale parameter called the coherence length. John Bardeen then argued in the 1955 paper, "Theory of the Meissner Effect in Superconductors",[2] that such a modification naturally occurs in a theory with an energy gap. The key ingredient was Leon Cooper's calculation of the bound states of electrons subject to an attractive force in his 1956 paper, "Bound Electron Pairs in a Degenerate Fermi Gas".[3]

In 1957 Bardeen and Cooper assembled these ingredients and constructed such a theory, the BCS theory, with Robert Schrieffer. The theory was first published in April 1957 in the letter, "Microscopic theory of superconductivity".[4] The demonstration that the phase transition is second order, that it reproduces the Meissner effect and the calculations of specific heats and penetration depths appeared in the December 1957 article, "Theory of superconductivity".[5] They received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1972 for this theory.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

The American Physical Society has already installed a plaque in the UIUC Materials Science and Engineering Bldg (Originally Physics) commemorating this event.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Media:PhysRev.104.1189.pdf Media:PhysRev.106.162.pdf Media:PhysRev.108.1175.pdf Media:BCS Theory UIUC 2022.pdf Media:Bardeen-Nobel lecture 1956.pdf

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