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Louis Eugène Félix Néel
Born 22 November 1904(1904-11-22)
Lyon, France
Died 17 November 2000 (aged 95)
Fields Solid-state physics
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1970)

Louis Eugène Félix Néel (22 November 1904 – 17 November 2000) was a French physicist born in Lyon. He studied at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon and was accepted at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He was corecipient (with the Swedish astrophysicist Hannes Alfvén) of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970 for his pioneering studies of the magnetic properties of solids. His contributions to solid state physics have found numerous useful applications, particularly in the development of improved computer memory units. About 1930 he suggested that a new form of magnetic behavior might exist; called antiferromagnetism, as opposed to ferromagnetism. Above a certain temperature (the Néel temperature) this behaviour stops. Néel pointed out (1947) that materials could also exist showing ferrimagnetism. Néel has also given an explanation of the weak magnetism of certain rocks, making possible the study of the history of Earth's magnetic field.

Biography

Néel was born in Lyons on 22 November 1904. In 1931 he married Hélène Hourticq; they have three children, Marie Françoise, Attachée d'Administration at the Conseil d'Etat, Marguerite, married to Guély, Professeur agrégée d'histoire, and Pierre, who is a television producer. Louis Néel studied at the Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris from 1924-1928, where he was appointed lecturer in 1928. In 1932 he obtained the degree of Doctor of Science at the University of Strasbourg, where he was appointed Professor at the Faculty of Science (1937-1945). He was Professor in Grenoble since 1945. In 1946 he became Director of the laboratory for electrostatics and metal physics (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). From 1954 until 1970 he was Director of the Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble and of the Ecole Française de Papeterie; in 1970 he was appointed President of the Institut National Polytechnique in Grenoble. He served as director of the Centre d'Etudes nucléaires de Grenoble from 1956 to 1970. From 1949 to 1969 he was a member of the Board of Directors of the C.N.R.S.; scientific adviser to the French Navy since 1952; French representative at the Scientific Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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