2008 Faraday medal

Professor Roger Cowley

Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford

For pioneering work in the development and application of neutron and X-ray scattering techniques to the physics of a wide range of important solid and liquid-state systems.

The Faraday medal of the Institute of Physics for outstanding contributions to experimental physics, to a physicist of international reputation in any sector has been awarded to Professor Roger Arthur Cowley, Dr Lee’s Professor Experimental Philosophy in the Clarendon Laboratory at the University of Oxford, for pioneering work in the development and application of neutron and X-ray scattering techniques to the physics of a wide range of important solid and liquid-state systems.

Professor Cowley’s work has provided key information on the structure and excitations of many materials, opening up new areas of study and understanding.  The data are always interpreted theoretically in a sophisticated fashion, with new approaches being developed where necessary. His research has often exposed unexpected features and has been regularly highly cited over many years.

Cowley’s early experiments used neutrons scattered inelastically from materials such as alkali-halide and perovskite crystals to study interatomic forces and their anharmonicity.

Cowley collaborated in the first systematic neutron measurements of quantum excitations in superfluid helium-4, confirming theoretical predictions - as well as experiments to investigate the different quantum nature of the lighter isotope helium-3.

In parallel, Cowley carried out extensive studies on the spin structure, dynamics and phase transitions of magnetic materials, particularly on transition metal fluorides and rare-earth elements, samples doped with magnetic impurities, and magnetic multilayers, as well as the magnetic behaviour of the high temperature superconductors. Such experiments are crucial in underpinning the development of future electronic and magnetic devices.

He also recognised that X-ray scattering could be used to study thin films, surfaces and interfaces - a now important area of research with industrial applications.

Professor Cowley’s achievements have attracted generations of exceptional students, and have influenced the direction of major investments in central facilities.