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Lee, David

LEE, DAVID (1931– ), U.S. physicist and Nobel laureate. Born in Rye, New York, Lee received his B.A. in physics from Harvard University (1952). After U.S. Army service, he earned his M.Sc. from the University of Connecticut (1955) and his Ph.D. in physics, under the supervision of Henry Fairbank, from Yale University (1959), where he developed his lasting interest in low-temperature physics. He joined the physics faculty of Cornell University (1959) where he became professor (1968–97) and James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences (1997). He and his colleagues discovered superfluidity in the naturally occurring lighter isotope of helium called helium-3, the phenomenon whereby helium-3 flows without resistance at a low temperature just above absolute zero. This property has fundamental theoretical implications for understanding atomic structure and cosmology. Its discovery also led to the establishment of the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance, which have been routinely adopted in medical practice and biological research. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this research (1996) jointly with Douglas Osheroff and Robert Richardson. His other honors include the Simon Memorial Prize and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.