Robert C. Richardson

Won Nobel Prize for physics in 1996

Robert C. Richardson, 75, a Cornell University professor who shared a Nobel Prize for a key discovery in experimental physics, died Tuesday in Ithaca, N.Y., from complications of a heart attack, the university announced.

He and fellow Cornell researchers David Lee and Douglas Osheroff were awarded the Nobel in 1996 for their 1971 work on extremely low-temperature physics involving the isotope helium-3. Their discovery demonstrated that the isotope became a "superfluid" that flows without friction, and it contributed to research ranging from the properties of microscopic matter to astrophysics.

Richardson was born June 26, 1937, in Washington, D.C., earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a doctorate at Duke University, where he studied with the physicist Horst Meyer and later served as a trustee.

He joined Cornell in 1968 and was named the Floyd R. Newman Professor of Physics in 1987. He was also Cornell's first provost for research from 1998 to 2003.

As co-author of the 2005 National Academy of Sciences report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," Richardson called for the United States to ensure that it remains globally competitive in science and technology.

Lee is now a physics professor at Texas A&M University and Osheroff is a professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Richard Briers

Sitcom star turned Shakespearean actor

Richard Briers, 79, a British actor who was an avuncular comic presence on TV and movie screens for decades, died Sunday at his London home, said his agent, Christopher Farrar. A former heavy smoker, Briers had suffered from emphysema.

Briers starred in the 1970s sitcom "The Good Life" as Tom Good, a man who decides to quit the urban rat race for a life of self-sufficiency in suburbia. Broadcast in Britain between 1975 and 1978, it aired in the United States as "Good Neighbors." He also starred in the comedy-drama "Ever-Decreasing Circles," the Scottish Highlands drama "Monarch of the Glen" and a host of other shows.

In later life, he became well known for Shakespearean roles. He joined director Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987 after deciding, he said, that "I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms."

For Branagh, he took on roles including King Lear, Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" and the buffoon Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

He also appeared in several Branagh-directed films, including "Henry V," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Hamlet," "Peter's Friends" and "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

Briers also was the voice of rabbit Fiver in the much-loved animated animal feature "Watership Down."

On stage, he was associated with the work of British comic playwright Alan Ayckbourn, playing leading roles in "Relatively Speaking," "Absurd Person Singular" and "Absent Friends."

Born Jan. 14, 1934, in Merton, England, Briers trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

He said he had no desire to retire, but complained in one of his final interviews that the chronic lung disease emphysema was slowing him down.

"The ciggies got me. I stopped 10 years ago, but too late," he told the Daily Mail newspaper last month.