Theodore "Ted" H. Geballe 1920 - 2021

Friday, November 19, 2021

Theodore "Ted" H. Geballe, dear collaborator and friend of the department, passed away on November 8, 2021. Geballe was a pioneer in the fields of applied physics, materials research and superconductivity. 

A condensed matter physicist, Geballe studied superconductivity, a phenomenon whereby electrons flow without resistance, and how temperature affects the properties of semiconductors such as silicon and germanium.

His work helped define the field of applied physics, which had ripple effects across many disciplines. His studies paved the way for innovations including infrared-sensitive films in night-vision goggles, thin films in medical imaging equipment, high-purity lithium niobate crystals for lasers and the first successful high-temperature superconductors in thin-film form.

‘The best advisor you could have’

During the decades Geballe taught at Stanford, he advised more than 30 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

“Ted was the best graduate advisor I could ever have had, and long after, remained a much-beloved life-long friend and colleague.,” said Frances Hellman, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, Senior Faculty Scientist in the Materials Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and current President of the American Physical Society.

"He welcomed me into his research group, which was kind of like a family, with great warmth, and he started me on a project in a way that took a few of my graduate years to appreciate — freedom in my research pursuits. He trusted that my ideas would click, even when that was not obvious. He supported me even when I questioned whether science was really my future, such as when I briefly decided that being a scuba diving instructor might be the path for me (to which idea he notably said: "but isn't it hurricane season?  Maybe you should wait till after that?") I found my way into science, not because he told me which way to go but because he cleared the way for me and believed in me. His joy when I came to Berkeley, his alma mater, as professor and then Physics Chair a few years later, was much appreciated.  More importantly, his wisdom and insight into materials and their endlessly fascinating phenomena were inspiring to me at every stage of my career.  I'm forever grateful for the way he taught and supported me, and I hope that I bring that same wisdom and faith to all of my students."

Read more about Theodore Gaballe's life

Holly Alyssa MacCormick