David Morris Lee Biography

David Morris Lee is an American physicist who was a joint winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics. This biography of David Morris Lee provides detailed information about his childhood, life, research career, achievements, works & timeline.

David Morris Lee
Quick Facts

Birthday: January 20, 1931

Nationality: American

Famous: Physicists American Men

Age: 88 Years, 88 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Capricorn

Also Known As: David Lee

Born in: Rye, New York

Famous as: Physicist


Spouse/Ex-: Dana (2 children)

father: Marvin Lee

mother: Annette (Franks)

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Yale University, University of Connecticut, Harvard University

awards: Nobel Prize in Physics (1996)
Oliver Buckley Prize (1981)
Sir Francis Simon Memorial Prize (1976)
Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1970)

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David Morris Lee is an American physicist who won a share of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Robert C. Richardson and Douglas Osheroff “for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3." Their discovery, which is mainly of theoretical significance, confirms a number of predictions in quantum theory. It also has a key role to play in the theory of strings. Born in New York to descendents of Jewish immigrants from England and Lithuania, Lee grew up near the sea and spent a considerable time of his childhood exploring the coastline, collecting frogs, fish, salamanders, snakes and worms. This is how his fascination with nature and science began which would eventually lead him to his life’s calling. He also loved railways from childhood and developed an interest in meteorology as a teenager. As a youngster he had planned to study biological sciences but over the years he was more drawn towards physics which he chose as his major at Harvard University. He proceeded to complete his master’s degree and research before taking a job at Cornell University. In the 1970s he began the work, which ultimately won him the Nobel Prize. In collaboration with Robert C. Richardson and Douglas Osheroff, he performed important research in low-temperature physics which lead to the discovery of superfluidity in helium-3.

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David Morris Lee
Childhood & Early Life
  • David Morris Lee was born in Rye, New York, on January 20, 193, to Annette (Franks), a teacher, and Marvin Lee, an electrical engineer. His parents were descendants of Jewish immigrants from England and Lithuania.
  • He grew up near the sea shore and spent his childhood collecting frogs, fish, salamanders, snakes and worms. Along with his fascination for nature, he also loved railways and amassed an impressive collection of railway timetables covering the entire U.S.A.
  • During his teenage he developed an interest in meteorology and started maintaining his own weather records. He was deeply influenced by the book ‘The Mysterious Universe’ by Sir James Jeans which kindled his love for physics.
  • He performed well in studies in high school and was also active in sports. He graduated in 1948 and attended Harvard University where he majored in physics. After completing his bachelor’s degree in 1952 he served in the U.S. Army for 22 months.
  • He continued his studies following his discharge from the army and obtained a master's degree from the University of Connecticut. He enrolled in the Ph.D. program in physics at Yale University in the summer of 1955. There he worked with Professor Henry A. Fairbank in the low-temperature physics group, primarily experimenting on liquid 3He.
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  • He earned his PhD in 1959 and accepted a teaching position with the Physics Department of Cornell University in Ithaca. The very next year he was promoted as assistant professor and made an associate professor in 1963. He rose to the position of a full professor by 1968 and became professor emeritus in 2007.
  • At Cornell, Lee was assigned the responsibility of setting up a research laboratory in low temperature physics and teach courses in the physics department. The new Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics developed well during the 1960s with the addition of scientists like John D. Reppy, and Robert C. Richardson. His collaborator in research also included Douglas D. Osheroff, a graduate student working with them who later became a professor at Stanford University.
  • The group of scientists performed significant research in low-temperature physics. In the 1970s, Lee, along with Richardson and Osheroff used a Pomeranchuk cell to investigate the behavior of 3He at temperatures within a few thousandths of a degree of absolute zero.
  • Their initial research led to several important findings, including what they termed as phase transitions to a superfluid phase of 3He. Their works also encompassed the discovery of the tri-critical point on the phase separation curve of liquid 3He-4He mixtures, the antiferromagnetic ordering in solid helium-3, and the discovery of nuclear spin waves in spin polarized atomic hydrogen gas.
  • The team’s discovery of superfluidity in helium-3 set the pace for further research in this field which eventually enabled scientists to directly study the strange quantum mechanical effects in macroscopic (visible) systems that previously could only be studied indirectly in molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.
  • Lee remains active on in the scientific fraternity and is currently teaching physics at Texas A&M University. He also moved his laboratory from Cornell to Texas A&M University in 2009.
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Major Works
  • Lee is best known for his research in low-temperature physics, and especially the discovery of superfluidity in helium-3 over the course of his collaborative work with Douglas D. Osheroff and Robert C. Richardson. He also performed important research relating to liquid, solid and superfluid helium (4He, 3He and mixtures of the two).
Awards & Achievements
  • David Morris Lee, Douglas D. Osheroff, and Robert C. Richardson were awarded the Sir Francis Simon Memorial Prize of the British Institute of Physics (1976) and Oliver Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society (1981) for the discovery of superfluid 3He.
  • Lee, Osheroff, and Richardson were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 1996 “for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3."
  • Lee is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Shortly after arriving at Cornell, David Morris Lee met his future wife Dana, who was a Ph.D. student in nutrition and biochemistry at that time. The couple has two sons and has been happily married for several decades.

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How To Cite

Article Title
- David Morris Lee Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- September 29, 2017

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