Ivar Giaever was born
in Bergen, Norway, April 5, 1929, the second of three
children. He grew up in Toten where his father was a pharmacist. He was
from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in
1952 with a degree in mechanical engineering. In
1953, Giaever completed his
military duty as a corporal in the Norwegian Army, and thereafter he
employed for a year as a patent examiner for the Norwegian Government.
Giaever emigrated to Canada
in 1954 and after a short period as an architect's aide he joined
General Electric's Advanced Engineering Program. In 1956, he emigrated
to the USA
completed GE’s A, B, and C engineering courses and then worked in
assignments as an applied mathematician. He joined the GE Research and Development Center
in Niskayuna, NY,
in 1958 and concurrently began graduate study at Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute (RPI) in Troy,
NY, where he
earned his Ph.D. degree in physics
in 1964. He became a naturalized US citizen the same year.
From 1958 to 1969 Dr. Giaever worked in the fields of thin films,
superconductivity. In 1965 he was awarded the Oliver E. Buckley Prize
pioneering work combining tunneling and superconductivity. In 1969 he
a Guggenheim Fellowship and thereupon spent one year in Cambridge, England
studying biophysics. Since returning to the Research and Development Center
in 1970, Dr. Giaever has spent most of his effort studying the behavior
protein molecules at solid surfaces. In recognition of his work he was
a Coolidge fellow at General Electric in May, 1973.
While working as a
physicist at the R&D Center in Niskayuna
in 1960, four years before earning his doctorate, Ivar Giaever
idea of using electron tunneling to measure the energy gap in a
This technique, disclosed in a pathbreaking paper, both provided a new
for studying superconductivity and opened the possibility of a new
electronic devices. The importance of the work was highlighted by the
a 1973 Nobel Prize, shared with Leo Esaki and Brian D. Josephson.
the highest honor that a scientist can receive, and we are delighted
Nobel Committee has this year recognized Dr. Giaever's outstanding
to the study of phenomena that occur at temperatures near absolute
said Dr. Arthur M. Bueche, GE vice president for research and
"The only other GE scientist to receive a Nobel Prize was the late Dr.
Irving Langmuir, who won the award for chemistry in 1932," Dr. Bueche
pointed out. GE Chairman of the Board Reginald H. Jones said that it
appropriate that today, October 23rd, 1973, was the 100th birthday of
one of GE’s
greatest scientists, Dr. William D. Coolidge, who also lived in Niskayuna.
Dr. Giaever is a member
of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic
Engineers and of the Biophysical Society, and he is a Fellow of the
Physical Society. In addition to his position as Institute Professor of
Engineering and Science at RPI, Dr. Giaever is professor at large at
the University of Oslo
in Norway and is
president of the Applied BioPhysics Institute in Troy, NY,
At the time of his Nobel
award and to the present day, Dr. Giaever and
his wife Inger have lived in Niskayuna.
Shortly after GE held its recognition reception, the Niskayuna Town
Supervisor, Dr. Edwin D. Reilly, declared an “Ivar Giaever Day” in his
Dr. Reilly had studied under the same professors at RPI as had Dr.
received his Ph.D. in physics five years later. But although they lived
than a mile apart, they had not met until they discovered that they had
written letters on the same subject that appeared in the same issue of Physics Today. Upon
notification of his town’s proclamation,
Dr. Giaever called the Supervisor and said, “Thanks, Ed, but tell me.
what does one do on Ivar Giaever Day?”