Leo Esaki

University of Tsukuba │ Tsukuba, Japan
For the development of the tunnel diode and the discovery and utilization of quantum-mechanical tunneling in semiconductors.

Leo Esaki was born in 1925 in Osaka, Japan. He studied physics at the University of Tokyo, and decided to engage in industrial research in order to help rebuild post-war Japan. He took at position at Sony Corporation, and it was there in 1957 that he discovered the tunnel diode, the first quantum electron device, for which he received a Ph.D. in physics and, later, the Ballantine Medal from The Franklin Institute in 1961 and the Nobel Prize in physics in 1973.

Dr. Esaki came to the United States in 1960 to join IBM Research. He was offered a Fellowship in 1967, and remained there for 31 years. He has been President of the University of Tsukuba in Japan since 1992.

His work at the IBM/T. J. Watson Research Center has focused on man-made semiconductor structures such as superlattices and quantum wells. Based on his discoveries, a variety of engineered structures have demonstrated intriguing characteristics, including nearly ideal resonant tunneling. His research led to the discovery of the Esaki tunnel diode. Activities in this new frontier of semiconductor science have given immeasurable stimulus to device design, leading to unprecedented electron-transport and optoelectronic devices for applications.

Information as of 1961