nevill f. mott

Nevill Francis Mott


Sir Nevill Francis Mott (30 September, 19058 August, 1996), FRS, CH, was a British physicist. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1977 for his work on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems. The award was shared with Philip W. Anderson and J. H. Van Vleck, who had pursued independent research.


Mott's parents were (Charles) Francis Mott and his wife, Lilian Mary, née Reynolds; his sister Joan was two years younger. He was born in Leeds and grew up first in the village of Giggleswick, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where his father had been the Senior Science Master at the local school. It was a generally secular childhood. The family moved (due to his father's jobs) first to Staffordshire, then to Chester and finally Liverpool, where his father had been appointed Director of Education. Mott was at first educated at home by his mother, who was a Cambridge Mathematics Tripos graduate. His parents had actually met in the Cavendish Laboratory, when both engaged in Physics research. At ten years of age he began formal education at Clifton College in Bristol, then at St. John's College, Cambridge.

Academic career

He was appointed to a lecturership at Manchester University in 1929. He returned to Cambridge in 1930 as a Fellow and lecturer of Gonville and Caius College and in 1933 moved to Bristol University as Melville Wills Professor in Theoretical Physics.

In 1948 he became Henry Overton Wills Professor of Physics and Director of the Henry Herbert Wills Physical Laboratory at Bristol. In 1954 he was appointed Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge, a post he held until 1971. Additionally he served as Master of Gonville and Caius College, 1959-1966.

Mott's accomplishments include explaining theoretically the effect of light on a photographic emulsion (see latent image) and outlining the transition of substances from metallic to nonmetallic states (Mott transition). The term Mott insulator is also named for him.

Mott was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1936. Mott served as president of the Physical Society in 1957. In the early 1960s he was chairman of the British Pugwash group. He was knighted in 1962. He continued to work until he was about ninety. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1995.


Mott was married to Ruth Eleanor Horder, and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Alice. He died in Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.


  • N. F. Mott, Metal-Insulator Transitions, second edition (Taylor & Francis, London, 1990). ISBN 0850667836, ISBN 978-0850667837
  • N. F. Mott, A Life in Science, (Taylor & Francis, London, 1986). ISBN 0850663334, ISBN 978-0850663334

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