Heinrich Rohrer

Heinrich Rohrer (6 June 1933 – 16 May 2013) was a Swiss physicist who shared half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with Gerd Binnig for the design of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.[2][3][4][5]

Heinrich Rohrer
Heinrich Rohrer
Born(1933-06-06)6 June 1933[1]
Buchs, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Died16 May 2013(2013-05-16) (aged 79)
Wollerau, Switzerland
Known forCo-inventor of Scanning tunneling microscope[1]
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (1986)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1987)
Scientific career


Rohrer was born in Buchs, St. Gallen half an hour after his twin sister. He enjoyed a carefree country childhood until the family moved to Zürich in 1949. He enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in 1951, where he was student of Wolfgang Pauli and Paul Scherrer. His PhD thesis was supervised by Prof P. Grassmann who worked on cryogenic engineering. Rohrer measured the length changes of superconductors at the magnetic-field-induced superconducting transition, a project begun by Jørgen Lykke Olsen. In the course of his research, he found that he had to do most of his research at night after the city was asleep because his measurements were so sensitive to vibration.

His studies were interrupted by his military service in the Swiss mountain infantry. In 1961, he married Rose-Marie Egger. Their honeymoon trip to the United States included a stint doing research on thermal conductivity of type-II superconductors and metals with Bernie Serin at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

In 1963, he joined the IBM Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon under the direction of Ambros Speiser. The first couple of years at IBM, he studied Kondo systems with magnetoresistance in pulsed magnetic fields. He then began studying magnetic phase diagrams, which eventually brought him into the field of critical phenomena.

In 1974, he spent a sabbatical year at the University of California in Santa Barbara, California studying nuclear magnetic resonance with Vince Jaccarino and Alan King.

Until 1982 he worked on the scanning tunneling microscope. He was appointed IBM Fellow in 1986, and led the physics department of the research lab from 1986 until 1988. Rohrer was elected an honorary academician of Academia Sinica in 2008.[6]


Rohrer died of natural causes on 16 May 2013 at his home in Wollerau, Switzerland, aged 79.[7][8]


  1. Gerber, Christoph (2013). "Heinrich Rohrer (1933–2013) Co-inventor of the scanning tunnelling microscope". Nature. 499 (7456): 30–31. Bibcode:2013Natur.499...30G. doi:10.1038/499030a. PMID 23823788.
  2. "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1986, Heinrich Rohrer". Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  3. Weiss, P. S. (2013). "Dr. Heinrich Rohrer (1933–2013), Founding Father of Nanotechnology". ACS Nano. 7 (6): 4693–4693. doi:10.1021/nn402978h. PMID 23799298.
  4. Weiss, P. S. (2007). "A Conversation withDr. Heinrich Rohrer: STM Co-inventor and One of the Founding Fathers of Nanoscience". ACS Nano. 1 (1): 3–5. doi:10.1021/nn7001294. PMID 19203123.
  5. Robinson, A. L. (1986). "Electron Microscope Inventors Share Nobel Physics Prize: Ernst Ruska built the first electron microscope in 1931; Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer developed the scanning tunneling microscope 50 years later". Science. 234 (4778): 821–822. Bibcode:1986Sci...234..821R. doi:10.1126/science.234.4778.821. PMID 17758103.
  6. "Heinrich Rohrer". Academia Sinica. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  7. "Heinrich Rohrer dies at 79; a father of nanotechnology". LA Times. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  8. Heinrich Rohrer obituary, The Economist June 2013
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