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Icons of Progress

Scanning Tunneling Microscope

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk, and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Gerd Binnig 

    Gerd Binning
    “You have to be absolutely patient, but suddenly one atom was sitting right in front of the tip and I got atomic resolution. That’s the way to success, not giving up.”

    Gerd Binnig was born in 1947, in Frankfurt, Germany. He attended that city’s J. W. Goethe University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and thereafter a doctoral degree. In 1978, he began his professional career at IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory. Eight years later Dr. Binnig, and his research partner Heinrich Rohrer, won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope. After receiving the award, Dr. Binnig attained the status of IBM Fellow. He continues to conduct research at IBM’s facility in Zurich. In his leisure time, Dr. Binnig enjoys golf, tennis, playing guitar and singing. He has two grown children and is married to his wife, Lore.

  • Heinrich Rohrer 

    Heinrich Rohrer
    “We didn’t see any obstacle which could not be overcome. Of course there were quite a few fortuitous developments in the whole thing but somehow luck was on our side.”

    Born in Buchs, Switzerland, in 1933, Heinrich Rohrer attended the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he earned his doctorate degree in experimental physics in 1960. Three years later, Dr. Rohrer started working at IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory. He began his long and illustrious collaboration with Dr. Gerd Binnig in 1978, initially investigating electron spectroscopy. In partnership with Binnig, Dr. Rohrer developed the scanning tunneling microscope, which earned both men the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Rohrer oversaw the physics department at the Zurich lab from 1986 to 1988, spent another nine years there and then retired from IBM. During his free time, Dr. Rohrer enjoys camping and traveling. He and his wife, Rose-Marie, have two daughters.