Thomas Maurice Rice

T. Maurice Rice
Born (1939-01-26) 26 January 1939 (age 84)
Alma mater
  • Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize (1998)
  • John Bardeen Prize (2000)
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical Condensed Matter Physics
  • Bell Laboratories (Murray Hill, New Jersey)
  • ETH (Zurich, Switzerland)

Thomas Maurice Rice (born 26 January 1939 in Dundalk, Ireland; known professionally as Maurice Rice) is an Irish (and naturalised American) theoretical physicist specializing in condensed matter physics.


Rice is the younger brother of structural engineer Peter Rice. He grew up in 52 Castle Road, Dundalk in County Louth with his two siblings. Like his brother, he studied at the local Christian Brothers school, Coláiste Rís. Subsequently he studied physics as an undergraduate at University College Dublin and as a graduate student with Volker Heine at the University of Cambridge. In 1964, he moved to the US and spent two years as a post-doc with Walter Kohn at the University of California, San Diego. Then he joined the technical staff at Bell Labs in 1966, where he stayed until 1981, when he joined the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland.

Rice and his wife, Helen, moved with their family of a son and two daughters from New Jersey to Zurich. Rice retired from teaching in 2004 and is an Emeritus Professor at ETH.


Rice graduated at a time when the field of condensed matter physics expanded from the study of just simple metals and semiconductors to cover a broad range of compound materials. This led him to collaborate with both theorist and experimentalist colleagues to interpret novel electronic properties of these materials. Bell Labs in the 1960s and 1970s provided the ideal environment for such collaborations. Rice's contributions covered a range of topics and materials, including metal-insulators transitions in transition metal oxides, electron-hole liquids in optically pumped semiconductors and charge and spin density waves.

In the early 1980s, Rice moved to ETH, a few years before Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller at the nearby IBM laboratories, made their discovery of high temperature superconductivity in layered cuprate compounds. Rice quickly switched his research to the challenges and puzzles posed by these novel and exceptional superconductors. Cuprates rapidly became a major topic in condensed matter physics, as a large range of spectacular properties in addition to high temperature superconductivity were discovered. Rice and his collaborators concentrated on developing a consistent microscopic interpretation of the various novel experimental results. The biggest challenge is the microscopic description of the mysterious pseudogap phase, which appears in a range of intermediate hole doping. Together with a series of talented graduate students and postdocs, he has focused on the role of enhanced Umklapp scattering in a nearly half-filled band as the key to the unexpected features. The physics of cuprates, even after three decades of research, remains very active with many open and controversial questions.

Brinkman-Rice transition

In 1970, Rice and William F. Brinkman helped to characterize the transition from metal to insulator in semiconductors, adding to the Mott-Hubbard approximation. They published a paper addressing the problem of ‘the excitation of two electrons to the outside of the Fermi sea’, in which they modeled approaching the transition from the uncorrelated metallic state, where each orbital is half-filled.

Awards and honours

Selected papers

The following papers are Rice's most cited:

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