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Nobel-winning physicist Robert C. Richardson dies at 75

Richardson shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1996 for turning a rare form of helium into a strange liquid state that had never been seen before.

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WASHINGTON, DC : Physicist Robert C. Richardson has died at age 75. Richardson poses for a photograph in Washington, DC in October 1996 after it was announced that he was a co-winner for the Nobel Prize in Physics. Richardson along with David Lee and Douglas Osheroff were honored for finding that the isotope helium-3 can be made to flow without friction at extremely low temperatures. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Physicist Robert C. Richardson, who won a Nobel Prize for his work with helium gasses, has died at the age of 75.

Cornell University, where Richardson taught, confirmed that he died from complications of a heart attack on Feb. 19 at a nursing home in Ithaca, NY, reports the Washington Post.

Richardson shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics for work done 25 years earlier with two colleagues at Cornell.

Richardson and David M. Lee, also a physics professor, teamed up with graduate student Douglas D. Osheroff to conduct technically challenging experiments to explore the properties of atoms at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, reports UPI.

The team cooled helium to within a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. They discovered a never-before-seen superfluid, or a liquid that flows without friction.

"I quickly tell people it has no practical applications," Osheroff told the New York Times.

But according to the newspaper, the experiment "enabled scientists to study a variety of scientific problems, including basic quantum interactions at the atomic level."

The Nobel Prize committee awarded the team the top prize for a breakthrough in basic physics.

According to the Washington Post, Richardson leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Betty McCarthy Richardson of Ithaca; a daughter, Jennifer Merlis of Culver City, Calif.; a sister; and four grandsons. His daughter Pamela Richardson died in 1994.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130222/nobel-winning-physicist-robert-c-richardson-dies