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
Born6 June 1933[1]
Buchs, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Died16 May 2013 (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 died of natural causes on 16 May 2013 at his home in Wollerau, Switzerland, aged 79.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b 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 dies at 79; a father of nanotechnology". LA Times. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  7. ^ Heinrich Rohrer obituary, The Economist June 2013
1986 in science

The year 1986 in science and technology involved many significant events, some not listed below.

Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center

Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center in Rüschlikon/ZH is a Research Facility for Nanotechnology owned by IBM.

This building was named after the two Nanotech-Pioneers and Nobelaureates Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, who invented the Scanning Tunneling Microscope in the year 1986 in the Zurich Research Laboratory next to the Nanotechnology Center.

The Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center is specialized on basic research but also in photonics and nanotechnology. The facility is based on the premise of open collaboration with IBM scientists and external partners. One of these partners is ETH Zurich, the renowned Swiss university that agreed to rent part of the Center for 10 years. EMPA is a third partner.

Christian Schönenberger

Christian Schönenberger (* 5 July 1956 in Zürich) is a Swiss experimental physicist and professor at the University of Basel working on nanoscience and nanoelectronics.

Don Eigler

Donald M. "Don" Eigler is an American physicist associated with the IBM Almaden Research Center, who is noted for his achievements in nanotechnology.

Education in Switzerland

The education system in Switzerland is very diverse, because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system mainly to the cantons. The Swiss constitution sets the foundations, namely that primary school is obligatory for every child and is free in public schools and that the confederation can run or support universities.

The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons but Obwalden, where it is five years and three months. After primary schools, the pupils split up according to their abilities and intentions of career paths. Roughly 25% of all students attend lower and upper secondary schools leading, normally after 12 school years in total to the federal recognized matura or an academic Baccalaureate which grants access to all universities. The other students split in two or more school-types, depending on the canton, differing in the balance between theoretical and practical education. It is obligatory for all children to attend school for at least 9 years.

The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel, with a faculty of medicine. This place has a long tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. In total, there are 12 Universities in Switzerland; ten of them are managed by the cantons, while two federal institutes of technology, ETHZ in Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne, are under the authority of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. In addition, there are seven regional associations of Universities for Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) which require vocational education and a special Berufsmatura, or a Fachmatura (a graduation by a Fachmittelschule) to study. Switzerland has a high rate of foreign students in tertiary education including one of the highest in the world of doctoral level students.Many Nobel prizes have been awarded to Swiss scientists. More recently Vladimir Prelog, Heinrich Rohrer, Richard Ernst, Edmond Fischer, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich have received nobel prizes in the sciences. In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded nine times to organizations residing in Switzerland. Geneva hosts the world's largest particle physics laboratory, the CERN. Other important research centers are the Empa and Paul Scherrer Institute which belong to the ETH domain.

Ernst Ruska

Ernst August Friedrich Ruska (25 December 1906 – 27 May 1988) was a German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986 for his work in electron optics, including the design of the first electron microscope.

Gerd Binnig

Gerd Binnig (born 20 July 1947) is a German physicist, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986 for the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope.He was born in Frankfurt am Main and played in the ruins of the city during his childhood. His family lived partly in Frankfurt and partly in Offenbach am Main, and he attended school in both cities. At the age of 10, he decided to become a physicist, but he soon wondered whether he had made the right choice. He concentrated more on music, playing in a band. He also started playing the violin at 15 and played in his school orchestra.Binnig studied physics at the J.W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, gaining a bachelor's degree in 1973 and remaining there do a PhD with in Werner Martienssen's group, supervised by Eckhardt Hoenig.In 1969, he married Lore Wagler, a psychologist, and they have a daughter born in Switzerland and a son born in California. His hobbies are reading, swimming and golf.

In 1978, he accepted an offer from IBM to join their Zürich research group, where he worked with Heinrich Rohrer, Christoph Gerber and Edmund Weibel. There they developed the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level.

The Nobel committee described the effect that the invention of the STM had on science, saying that "entirely new fields are opening up for the study of the structure of matter." The physical principles on which the STM was based were already known before the IBM team developed the STM, but Binnig and his colleagues were the first to solve the significant experimental challenges involved in putting it into effect.The IBM Zürich team were soon recognized with a number of prizes: the German Physics Prize, the Otto Klung Prize, the Hewlett Packard Prize and the King Faisal Prize.

In 1986, Binnig and Rohrer shared half of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.

From 1985-1988, he worked in California. He was at IBM in Almaden Valley, and was visiting professor at Stanford University.In 1985, Binnig invented the atomic force microscope (AFM) and Binnig, Christoph Gerber and Calvin Quate went on to develop a working version of this new microscope for insulating surfaces.In 1987 Binnig was appointed IBM Fellow. In the same year, he started the IBM Physics group Munich, working on creativity and atomic force microscopy In 1994 Professor Gerd Binnig founded Definiens which turned in the year 2000 into a commercial enterprise. The company developed Cognition Network Technology to analyze images just like the human eye and brain are capable of doing.in 2016, Binnig won the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. He became a fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.The Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center, an IBM-owned research facility in Rüschlikon, Zürich is named after Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer.

IBM Fellow

An IBM Fellow is an appointed position at IBM made by IBM's CEO. Typically only four to nine (eleven in 2014) IBM Fellows are appointed each year, in May or June. It is the highest honor a scientist, engineer, or programmer at IBM can achieve.

International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics

International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA from MAterials NanoArchitectonics) is a special research unit established in 2007 at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) within the World Premier International (WPI) Research Center Initiative by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

List of Swiss inventions and discoveries

The following list is composed of items, techniques and processes that were invented by or discovered by people from Switzerland.

List of microscopists

This is a list a microscopists.


Nanoengineering is the practice of engineering on the nanoscale. It derives its name from the nanometre, a unit of measurement equalling one billionth of a meter.

Nanoengineering is largely a synonym for nanotechnology, but emphasizes the engineering rather than the pure science aspects of the field.

Outline of nanotechnology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to nanotechnology:

Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.


Rohrer is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Anna Rohrer (born 1997), American long distance runner

Ben Rohrer (born 1981), Australian cricketer

Franz Rohrer (1832–1882), Swiss historical scholar

Heinrich Rohrer (1933–2013), Swiss physicist

Jason Rohrer (born 1977), American computer programmer, writer, musician and game designer

Jeff Rohrer (born 1958), American football linebacker

Matthew Rohrer (born 1970), American poet

Megan Rohrer (born 1980), American pastor and activist

Raphael Rohrer (born 1985), Liechtenstein footballer

Sam Rohrer (born 1955), American businessman and politician

Seraina Rohrer (born 1977), Swiss film festival director and academic

William Rohrer (1892-?), American baseball player

William G. Rohrer (1909-1989), American businessman and politician


Rüschlikon is a municipality in the district of Horgen in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland. It is located on the west shore of Lake Zürich.

Scanning tunneling microscope

A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. Its development in 1981 earned its inventors, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer (at IBM Zürich), the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. For an STM, good resolution is considered to be 0.1 nm lateral resolution and 0.01 nm (10 pm) depth resolution. With this resolution, individual atoms within materials are routinely imaged and manipulated. The STM can be used not only in ultra-high vacuum but also in air, water, and various other liquid or gas ambients, and at temperatures ranging from near zero kelvin to over 1000 °C.STM is based on the concept of quantum tunneling. When a conducting tip is brought very near to the surface to be examined, a bias (voltage difference) applied between the two can allow electrons to tunnel through the vacuum between them. The resulting tunneling current is a function of tip position, applied voltage, and the local density of states (LDOS) of the sample. Information is acquired by monitoring the current as the tip's position scans across the surface, and is usually displayed in image form. STM can be a challenging technique, as it requires extremely clean and stable surfaces, sharp tips, excellent vibration control, and sophisticated electronics, but nonetheless many hobbyists have built their own.

Science and Technology of Advanced Materials

Science and Technology of Advanced Materials is a peer-reviewed scientific journal in materials science that was established in 2000. In 2008 it became an open access journal through the sponsorship of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). The journal is international; it is managed by NIMS, which was joined in 2014 by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). Currently STAM is an electronic journal, its articles are continuously published online.

Timeline of microscope technology

Timeline of microscope technology

c. 700 BCE - The "Nimrud lens" of Assyrians manufacture, a rock crystal disk with a convex shape believed to be a burning or magnifying lens.

167 BCE - The Chinese use simple microscopes made of a lens and a water-filled tube to visualize the unseen.

13th century - The increase in use of lenses in eyeglasses probably led to the wide spread use of simple microscopes (single lens magnifying glasses) with limited magnification.

1590 - earliest date of a claimed Hans Martens/Zacharias Janssen invention of the compound microscope (claim made in 1655).

After 1609 - Galileo Galilei is described as being able to close focus his telescope to view small objects close up and/or looking through the wrong end in reverse to magnify small objects. A telescope used in this fashion is the same as a compound microscope but historians debate whether Galileo was magnifying small objects or viewing near by objects with his terrestrial telescope (convex objective/concave eyepiece) reversed.

1619 - Earliest recorded description of a compound microscope, Dutch Ambassador Willem Boreel sees one in London in the possession of Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel, an instrument about eighteen inches long, two inches in diameter, and supported on 3 brass dolphins.

1621 - Cornelius Drebbel presents, in London, a compound microscope with a convex objective and a convex eyepiece (a "Keplerian" microscope).

c.1622 - Drebbel presents his invention in Rome.

1624 - Galileo improves on a compound microscope he sees in Rome and presents his occhiolino to Prince Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei (in English, The Linceans).

1625 - Francesco Stelluti and Federico Cesi publish Apiarium, the first account of observations using a compound microscope

1625 - Giovanni Faber of Bamberg (1574 - 1629) of the Linceans, after seeing Galileo's occhiolino, coins the word microscope by analogy with telescope.

1655 - In an investigation by Willem Boreel, Dutch spectacle-maker Johannes Zachariassen claims his father, Zacharias Jansen, invented the compound microscope in 1590. Zachariassen's claimed dates are so early it is sometimes assumed, for the claim to be true, that his grandfather, Hans Martens, must have invented it. Findings are published by writer Pierre Borel. Discrepancies in Boreel's investigation and Zachariassen's testimony (including misrepresenting his date of birth and role in the invention) has led some historians to consider this claim dubious.

1665 - Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia, a collection of biological micrographs. He coins the word cell for the structures he discovers in cork bark.

1674 - Anton van Leeuwenhoek improves on a simple microscope for viewing biological specimens.

1850s - John Leonard Riddell, Professor of Chemistry at Tulane University, invents the first practical binocular microscope.

1863 - Henry Clifton Sorby develops a metallurgical microscope to observe structure of meteorites.

1860s - Ernst Abbe discovers the Abbe sine condition, a breakthrough in microscope design, which until then was largely based on trial and error. The company of Carl Zeiss exploited this discovery and becomes the dominant microscope manufacturer of its era.

1928 - Edward Hutchinson Synge publishes theory underlying the near-field scanning optical microscope

1931 - Ernst Ruska starts to build the first electron microscope. It is a Transmission electron microscope (TEM)

1936 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller invents the field emission microscope.

1938 - James Hillier builds another TEM

1951 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller invents the field ion microscope and is the first to see atoms.

1953 - Frits Zernike, professor of theoretical physics, receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the phase contrast microscope.

1955 - George Nomarski, professor of microscopy, published the theoretical basis of Differential interference contrast microscopy.

1957 - Marvin Minsky, a professor at MIT, invents the confocal microscope, an optical imaging technique for increasing optical resolution and contrast of a micrograph by means of using a spatial pinhole to block out-of-focus light in image formation. This technology is a predecessor to today's widely used confocal laser scanning microscope.

1967 - Erwin Wilhelm Müller adds time-of-flight spectroscopy to the field ion microscope, making the first atom probe and allowing the chemical identification of each individual atom.

1981 - Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer develop the scanning tunneling microscope (STM).

1986 - Gerd Binnig, Quate, and Gerber invent the Atomic force microscope (AFM)

1988 - Alfred Cerezo, Terence Godfrey, and George D. W. Smith applied a position-sensitive detector to the atom probe, making it able to resolve materials in 3-dimensions with near-atomic resolution.

1988 - Kingo Itaya invents the Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope

1991 - Kelvin probe force microscope invented.


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