According to quantum physics, electrons behave both like particles and like waves. As waves, they can penetrate barriers that would be unsurmountable if they were only particles. This property is known as ‘tunneling’. Ivar Giaever and Leo Esaki share half of the 1973 physics Nobel Prize “for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors”. The other half of the prize is awarded to Brian Josephson.
Giaever leaves GEC in 1988 to become both an Institute professor at Rensselaer and a professor at the University of Oslo, Norway. He has been focusing on biophysics, studying the motion of mammalian cells in tissue culture by growing both normal and cancerous cells on small electrodes.
In 1953, Giaever completes his military duty as a corporal in the Norwegian Army,
Ivar Giaever is born in Bergen, Norway, the second of three children.
In 1958, he joins GEC’s Research and Development Center and stays there until 1988. Giaever works in the fields of thin films, tunnelling and superconductivity until 1969,
In 1960 he demonstrates the tunnel effect through a thin layer of oxide sandwiched between two superconducting metal layers. His experiment highlights the so-called energy gap in superconductors, which turns out to be one of the most important predictions of the early theory of superconductivity. Giaever develops his experiments into a highly accurate method for studying superconductors.
Then he joins Canadian General Electric’s Advanced Engineering Program.
In 1969 he spends a year in Cambridge, England, studying biophysics.
He marries Inger Skramstad in 1952, and they have four children and several grandchildren.
In 1956, he moves to the US where he completes the General Electric Company's engineering courses. In these he works in various assignments as an applied mathematician.
He emigrates to Canada in 1954. At first, he works as an architect’s aide for a short time.
Also in 1958, he concurrently starts to study physics at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute where he obtains a Ph.D. degree in 1964 – the year he became a naturalised US citizen.
Thereafter he is employed for a year as a patent examiner for the Norwegian Government.
He grows up and attends primary school in Toten, where his father is a pharmacist.
Next he works at Raufoss Munition Factories for one year.
He enters the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim in 1948, graduating in 1952 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
He receives his secondary education in Hamar.