Conyers Herring

William Conyers Herring (November 15, 1914 July 23, 2009) was an American physicist. He was Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University and the Wolf Prize in Physics recipient in 1984/5.[1]

W. Conyers Herring
Born(1914-11-15)November 15, 1914
DiedJuly 23, 2009(2009-07-23) (aged 94)
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materPrinceton University
Known forSolid State Physics
AwardsOliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1959)
NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing (1980)
Wolf Prize (1984/5)
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
Doctoral advisorEugene Wigner

Academic career

Conyers Herring completed his Ph.D in Physics from Princeton University in 1937, submitting a dissertation entitled On Energy Coincidences in the Theory of Brillouin Zones under the direction of Eugene Wigner. In 1946, he joined the technical staff of Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, where he remained until 1978. Then, he joined the faculty at Stanford University.


Conyers Herring played a major role in the development of solid state physics.

He laid the foundations of band structure calculations of metals and semiconductors, culminating in the discovery of the Orthogonalized Plane Wave Method (O.P.W.) in 1940. He was years ahead of his time in this contribution. A great deal of modern solid state physics as produced today stems from this original and early paper.

His influence on the development of solid state physics extends to a deep understanding of many facets such as surface physics, of thermionic emission, of transport phenomena in semiconductors and of collective excitations in solids such as spin waves.

He created the theoretical physics division at Bell Telephone Laboratory. Because of this, the total research effort at this institution and brought about much of the most original research in condensed matter physics during the latter half of the 20th century.

He has also been most influential in promoting international cooperation among scientists and through his character and his personal example, he has exemplified a somewhat unattainable ideal of how a research scholar in any field should operate.

He has contributed to religion and science discussions. He has stated about God that "Things such as truth, goodness, even happiness, are achievable by virtue of a force that is always present, in the here and now and available to me personally".[2]

Awards and honors

In 1984/85 Conyers Herring was awarded the Wolf Prize in Physics along with Philippe Nozieres for "their major contributions to the fundamental theory of solids, especially of the behaviour of electrons in metals".[3] In 1980 he was awarded the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences.[4]

See also


  1. Conyers Herring at Stanford University
  2. pages 42-44 of Margenau, H. (1992). Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens. Open Court Publishing Company. co-edited with Roy Abraham Varghese. This book is mentioned in the Time magazine article: Galileo And Other Faithful Scientists
  3. The Wolf Prize in Physics in 1984/85
  4. "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
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