Professor Sir John Pethica

MA PhD (Camb) FREng FRS

Photo: NPL

Professor Sir John Pethica

Honorary Fellow


John Pethica is a materials physicist known for his work on nanoscale mechanics. He invented the technique known as nano-indentation for measuring very small scale mechanical properties. 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 was Professor in materials science at Oxford till 2001 when he moved to Trinity College Dublin where he founded the CRANN nanoscience centre and the Naughton Institute. He has also worked in industry in Switzerland and founded and directed successful technology companies in the USA.

He has been awarded the Rosenhain medal of IoM3, the Hughes medal of the Royal Society and the Holweck medal of the Societé Française de Physique. 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.