Professor Sir John B. Pendry

Senior Fellow of Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study, City University of Hong Kong

Chair Professor in Theoretical Solid State Physics at the Imperial College London, UK

Fellow of the Royal Society, UK

Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA

Foreign Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, Norway

Professor Sir John B. Pendry

Contact Information

Web: Personal Homepage
Professor Sir John Pendry received his Ph.D. in Solid State Theory from the University of Cambridge in 1969. He began his career in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and later worked at Downing College, Bell Laboratories and Daresbury Laboratory. Since 1981, he has been the Chair in Theoretical Solid-State Physics in the Imperial College London where he has served as Head of Physics Department (1998-2001), and subsequently Principal of the Faculty of Physical Sciences (2001-2002).

Professor Sir Pendry is a condensed matter theorist known for his research into refractive indexes and creation of the first practical “Invisibility Cloak”. He has worked extensively on electronic and structural properties of surfaces, developing the theory of low energy diffraction and electronic surface states and transport in disordered systems.

In 1992, Professor Sir Pendry turned his attention to photonic materials and developed some of the first computer codes capable of handling these novel materials. This interest led to his present research which concerns the remarkable electromagnetic properties of “Meta-materials” whose properties owe more to their micro-structures than to the constituent materials. These made accessible completely novel materials with properties not found in nature. Successively Meta-materials with negative electrical permittivity, then with negative magnetic permeability were designed and constructed. These designs were subsequently the basis for the first material with a negative refractive index, a property predicted 40 years ago by a Russian scientist, but unrealized because of the absence of suitable materials.

He went on to explore the surface excitations of the new negative materials and showed that these were part of the surface plasmon excitations familiar in metals. This project culminated in the proposal for a “perfect lens” whose resolution is unlimited by wavelength. In collaboration with a team of scientists at Duke University, he has developed the concept of “transformation optics”, or TO for short, which prescribes how electromagnetic lines of force can be manipulated at will. This enabled a proposed recipe for a cloak that can hide an arbitrary object from electromagnetic fields. Meta-materials give the possibility of building such a cloak and a version of this design working at radar frequencies and exploiting the properties of Meta-materials has now been implemented experimentally by the Duke team. Optical versions of the cloak have now been constructed.

His latest research applies TO to the study of surface plasmons. The surfaces of metals such as gold and silver support density oscillations of the electrons, much like waves on a sea. These can couple to external radiation, but have a much shorter wavelength. The plasmonic excitations are greatly influenced by the shape of the surface and in particular by any singularities such as sharp corners, touching surfaces, or other rough features, which tend to attract very high field intensities: they act as harvesting points for any incident radiation. By applying transformations to simple structures, such as plasmonic waveguides consisting of two parallel sheets of silver, many of the singular structures can be generated through a singular transformation and their spectra understood through the spectrum of the original simple waveguide. Thus, apparently diverse structures such as sharp edges, points, nearly touching spheres, can be shown to have a common origin and can in many cases be treated analytically. This deep understanding enables further properties of these structures to be elucidated such as the dispersion forces acting at short range between surfaces that are otherwise out of physical contact.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1984, Professor Sir Pendry has been Member of Council in 1992–1994, and Editor of the Proceedings A in 1996–2002. He was elected a Member of Council of the Institute of Physics (IOP) and Chairman of Institute of Physics Publishing in 2007-2011 and an Honorary Fellow of IOP in 2016. He was also named Fellow or Foreign Member in several professional organizations including the Optical Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, US National Academy of Sciences, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the American Physical Society. He has received numerous honors and awards recognizing his contributions, culminating in his knighthood for services to science in 2004, and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 2006. He was also awarded the Isaac Newton Medal in 2013, the Kavli Prize in 2014, the Dan David Prize and Ugo Fano Gold Medal in 2016, the John Howard Dellinger Medal in 2017 and the SPIE Mozi Award in 2019.


  • B.A. in Physics, University of Cambridge (1965)
  • Ph.D. in Solid State Theory, University of Cambridge (1969)


  • Scholar of Downing College, Cambridge (1962-1965)
  • Part III Mathematics - postgraduate course (1965-1966)
  • Research student, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (1966-1969)
  • ICI post-doctoral Fellow (1969-71)
  • Research Fellowship in Physics, Downing College, Cambridge (1969-1973)
  • Member of Technical Staff in the Theoretical Physics Department, Bell Laboratories,
  • Murray Hill, USA (1972-1973)
  • Senior Assistant in Research, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (1973-1975)
  • Fellow in Physics and Praelector, Downing College (1973-1975)
  • Senior Principal Scientific Officer: Head of Theory Group, SERC Daresbury
  • Laboratory (1975-1981)
  • Professor of Theoretical Solid State Physics, Imperial College of Science and
  • Technology, and Head of the Condensed Matter Theory Group, Imperial College London (1981-present)
  • Head, Experimental Solid State Physics Group (1983-1985)
  • Associate Head, Physics Department, Imperial College London (1984-1992)
  • Dean, Royal College of Science (1993-1996)
  • Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (1996-1997)
  • EPSRC Senior Research 5-Year Fellowship (1997-1998) 
  • Head, Physics Department, Imperial College London (1998-2001)
  • Principal, Faculty of Physical Sciences, Imperial College London (2001-2002)

Major Honors, Awards and Recognitions

  • British Vacuum Council Prize and Medal (1994)
  • Institute of Physics Dirac Medal and Prize (1996)
  • International Surface Structure Prize (1996)
  • Commonwealth Scholarships Commissioner (1998-2000)
  • Appleton Lecture (2003)
  • Celsius Lecture, University of Uppsala, Sweden (2004)
  • Knight Bachelor (for services to science) (2004)
  • Honorary Fellow, Downing College Cambridge (2005)
  • Royal Society Bakerian Lecture (2005)
  • Larmor Lecture (Belfast) (2005)
  • Fröhlich Lecture (Liverpool) (2005)
  • EU Descartes prize for “Extending Electromagnetism through Novel Artificial Materials” (2005)
  • Royal Medal (2006)
  • Centenary Kelvin Lecture – Institute of Engineering and Technology (2009)
  • UNESCO-Niels Bohr Gold Medal (2009)
  • Doctorate ‘honoris causa’ Universität Erlangen Nürnberg (2009)
  • W. E. Lamb Medal for Laser Science and Quantum Optics (2010)
  • Doctor of Science ‘honoris causa’ Duke University (2010)
  • Doctor of Science ‘honoris causa’ Hong Kong Baptist University (2010)
  • Honorary Professor Nanjing South Eastern University (2012)
  • Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience at the 2012 MRS Fall Meeting (2012)
  • APS McGroddy Prize – joint with David Smith and Costas Soukoulis (2013)
  • European Materials Research Society 30th Anniversary Prize (2013)
  • Newton Medal of the Institute of Physics (2013)
  • Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics (2013)
  • Kavli prize for nanotechnology joint with Thomas Ebbesen & Stefan Hell (2014)
  • EPS Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize for Fundamental Aspects (2015)
  • Doctor of Science ‘honoris causa’ Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2015)
  • Dan David Prize for nanotechnology joint with Paul Alivosatos and Chad Mirkin (2016)
  • Ugo Fano Gold Medal (2016)
  • International Union Of Radio Science Dellinger Gold Medal (2017)
  • SPIE Mozi Award (2019)

Professional Membership and/or Services

  • Fellow, the Institute of Physics (1984)
  • Fellow, the Institute of Physics (1984)
  • Member, SERC Science Board, SERC Nuclear Physics Board (1992-1993)
  • Member of Council, Royal Society (1992-1994)
  • Editor, Proceedings A of the Royal Society (1996-2002)
  • Member, Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (1998-2002)
  • EPSRC Senior Research 5-Year Fellowship (2003-2008)      
  • Fellow, the Optical Society of America (2005)
  • Chairman, Physics sub panel of RAE (2005-2008)      
  • Chairman, Advisory Committee of nanoGUNE, San Sebastian (2006-present)
  • Chairman, Institute of Physics Publishing (2007-2011)      
  • Member of Council, Institute of Physics (2007-2011)
  • Member, External Advisory board, Metamaterial Grand Challenge, Sandia National Laboratory (2008-2011)
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009)
  • Member, Core Committee of the MPI for the Science of Light, Erlangen (2009-2012)
  • Chairman, Cockcroft Institute Board (2009-2012) 
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012)
  • Fellow, the American Physical Society (2015)

Five Significant Scholarly Outputs

  1. J. B. Pendry, A. J. Holden, W. Stewart, I. Youngs, “Extremely Low Frequency Plasmons in Metallic Mesostructures, Physical Review Letters 76, 4773 (1996)
  2. J. B. Pendry, A. J. Holden, D. J. Robbins, W. J. Stewart, Magnetism from conductors and enhanced nonlinear phenomena, IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques 47, 2075 (1999)
  3. J. B. Pendry, Negative Refraction Makes a Perfect Lens, Physical Review Letters 85, 3966 (2000)
  4. J. B. Pendry, D. Schurig, D. R. Smith, Controlling Electromagnetic Fields, Science 312, 1780 (2006)
  5. D. Schurig, J. J. Mock, B. J. Justice, S. A. Cummer, J. B. Pendry, A. F. Starr, D. R. Smith, Meta-material Electromagnetic Cloak at Microwave Frequencies, Science 314, 977 (2006)