David Shoenberg. 4 January 1911 — 10 March 2004

Sir Brian Pippard

Elected F.R.S. 1953


David Shoenberg was the last surviving pioneer of British low-temperature physics, having outlived Nicholas Kurti FRS, who died at the age of 90 in 1988, and J. S. (Jack) Allen, who was nearly 93 when he died in 2001. At the time they began work, before World War II, liquid helium was a rare commodity. In England it was made first in Oxford (1933), with Cambridge following a year later; L. C. Jackson in Bristol could liquefy hydrogen, which was used occasionally to prime a small helium liquefier. Before the outbreak of war halted academic research, all three centres had made significant discoveries in magnetism, superconductivity and superfluidity. P. L. Kapitza's expansion engine regularly supplied liquid helium for Cambridge and, on a few occasions, the other two; it was the forerunner of S. C. Collins's design of commercial liquefier, which, with generous postwar government support for research, made the USA the most prolific performer in low-temperature physics. But the English laboratories built on their prewar distinction and were soon active once more after 1945, with Shoenberg a leading figure. The work he initiated, particularly on the de Haas–van Alphen effect, has continued to spread across the world and into realms of thought he never contemplated in his active years.

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