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Professor Sir John Pethica

MA PhD FREng FRS DSc (Hon, Queens Belfast)

Physics (Natural Sciences)
Fellow type
Honorary Fellow

Honorary Fellow, Alumnus 1971 Physics


John Pethica is known for his work on nanoscale mechanics. He invented the technique of nano-indentation for measuring mechanical properties at extremely small scales. This is now used worldwide in both basic research and across the thin films and coatings industries. He introduced the concepts of forces acting in tunnel microscopy, which led to the atomic force microscope, very widely used for high resolution surface and atom imaging.

John worked in industry in Switzerland and founded and directed successful technology companies in the USA. He was professor at Oxford till 2001. He then moved to Trinity College Dublin where he founded the CRANN nanoscience centre and Naughton Institute. He was Chief Science Advisor at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington from 2007 to 2017, and Physical Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society from 2009 to 2014.