45 Rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France
Louis-Eugène-Félix Néel studied at the distinguished Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and was graduated in 1928.
4 Rue Blaise Pascal, 67081 Strasbourg, France
Neel received his doctorate in 1932 from the University of Strasbourg.
Neel received his secondary education at the Lycee du Parc in Lyons and the Lycee St.-Louis in Paris. He studied at the distinguished Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and was graduated in 1928. Neel received his doctorate in 1932 from the University of Strasbourg. He studied under Pierre Weiss, a leading investigator of magnetization (a solid’s capability of being magnetized).
After receiving his doctorate, Neel joined the faculty of the University of Strasbourg and remained there until 1945. When Neel yet was beginning his doctoral work, German physicist Werner Karl Heisenberg announced his finding that large-scale magnetic attraction is produced by neighboring atoms of ferromagnetic substances orienting in the same direction. In 1930 Neel, building on Heisenberg’s work, suggested that there are also “antiferromagnetic" substances. with interactions that cause the magnetic moments of neighboring atoms to realign in opposing directions, resulting in zero magnetization. During World War II Neel used his expertise to protect French warships against magnetic mines by “neutralizing” them. He gave them a magnetization opposite the normal terrestrial magnetic field.
In 1945 Neel joined the faculty of the University of Grenoble and established the Laboratory of Electrostatics and the Physics of Metals. In 1947 he also developed the concept of ferrimagnetic substances. Neel developed a theory of magnetization that described the subdivision of ferromagnetic substances into elementary domains, regions of ferromagnetic material, with spikes and walls. He also analyzed the process of magnetic creep, the effect of time on magnetization of ferromagnetic substances.
In 1956 Neel was asked to found the Center for Nuclear Studies at Grenoble. Through his involvement, Grenoble became an important center for physics research. Neel was also president of the Grenoble Institute of Technology during 1971 - 1976. Between 1963 to 1983 he was French delegate to the NATO Scientific Council. In 1981 - 1986 he was the president of Council for Higher Nuclear Safety. Néel wrote more than 200 works on various aspects of magnetism.
During the early 1930s Néel studied, on the molecular level, forms of magnetism that differ from ferromagnetism. In ferromagnetism, the most common variety of magnetism, the electrons line up (or spin) in the same direction at low temperatures. He discovered that, in some substances, alternating groups of atoms align their electrons in opposite directions (much as when two identical magnets are placed together with opposite poles aligned), thus neutralizing the net magnetic effect. This magnetic property is called antiferromagnetism. Néel’s studies of fine-grain ferromagnetics provided an explanation for the unusual magnetic memory of certain mineral deposits that has provided information on changes in the direction and strength of the Earth’s magnetic field.
Louis Neel was a member of the Academy of Sciences of Paris, the scientific academies of Moscow, Warsaw, Romania, and Amsterdam, and to the Royal Society of London and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Louis Neel married Hélène Hourticq on September 14, 1931 and they had three children - Marie-Francoise, Marguerite Guély, and Pierre.