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Robert C. Richardson, Nobel laureate in physics, dies at 75

Robert C. Richardson, a Cornell University professor who shared a Nobel Prize for a key discovery in experimental physics, died Feb. 19 at a nursing home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 75.

He died of complications from a heart attack. His death was announced by Cornell.

Dr. Richardson, David M. Lee and Douglas D. Osheroff were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996 for their 1971 work at Cornell on low-temperature physics involving the isotope helium-3, which has contributed to research ranging from the properties of microscopic matter to astrophysics.

Robert Coleman Richardson was born June 26, 1937, in Washington and grew up in Arlington County. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1954 and received a bachelor’s degree in 1958 and master’s degree in 1960, both in physics from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

After serving in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, he received a doctorate in physics in 1966 from Duke University, where he studied with the physicist Horst Meyer and later served as a trustee.

Dr. Richardson joined Cornell in 1968 and was also Cornell’s first provost for research from 1998 to 2003.

As co-author of the 2005 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” Dr. Richardson called for the United States to ensure that it remain globally competitive in science and technology.

Survivors include 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.

— From news services and staff

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