Zhao Zhongxian, born in 1941 in Liaoning Province, is a full professor of the Institute of Physics (IOP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). He has been working at IOP, CAS after graduated from University of Science and Technology of China in 1964. In IOP, CAS, he once served as a head of a techniqual team of a defense program. He was the first director of the State Key Laboratory for Superconductivity. He was elected as an academician of CAS in 1991. As one of the founders of high temperature superconductivity research in China, Prof. Zhao has been engaged in the superconductivity research about 50 years.

Superconductivity is one of the most important and attractive fields in condensed matter physics. However, a vast application of superconductors is obstructed due to the pretty low critical temperature (Tc). A long-standing goal has been the grand hope of superconductivity with Tc above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (77K), or a dreamy room temperature superconductor. So far, only two breakthroughs on high temperature superconductors occurred in the past 100 years since the discovery of superconductivity. Prof. Zhao and his colleagues have made pioneering contributions to both of them, remarkably, achieving high temperature superconductivity above 77K in copper oxide superconductors, discovering a series of iron-based superconductors with transition temperatures above 50K and holding the record of Tc in bulk Fe-based superconductors, i.e. the highest Tc up to 55K.

Prof. Zhao was among a few top scientists in the world who immediately recognized the importance of Bednorz and Mueller’s paper, where possible superconductivity at 35K was reported in copper oxide Ba-La-Cu-O. The paper stroked a chord with Prof. Zhao’s view, that is, structural instability without structural phase transition may lead to the high temperature superconductivity. In February 1987, Prof. Zhao and his colleagues independently discovered a superconductor with Tc above 77K, and firstly announced the ingredients of Ba-Y-Cu-O (YBCO) over the world. Consequently, a world-wide enthusiasm in research of the copper oxide superconductors was greatly boosted. As the first Chinese winner, Prof. Zhao was awarded the  TWAS Prize in Physics 1987. Prof. Zhao obtained the First-Class National Natural Science prize in 1989 for achieving the superconductivity above liquid nitrogen temperature in Ba-Y-Cu-O system .

The second main achievement made by Prof. Zhao is in the field of iron-based superconductors. Based on his long-term scientific research accumulation, Prof. Zhao proposed a new idea for searching of high Tc superconductors, that is, exploring high Tc superconductivity in systems with layered tetragonal structure and multiple collective phenomena. In 2008, Hosono from Japan reported the discovery of superconductivity at 26K in LaOFeAs. Considering the fact of layered structure with composite orders in this system, Prof. Zhao immediately realized that there should be a new breakthrough. After the observation of positive pressure effect on superconductivity in LaOFeAs, Prof. Zhao immediately outlined the investigation strategy for his team, i.e. high-pressure and high-temperature syntheses with rare-earth element substitutions. Subsequently, they found superconductivity at 52K in fluorine-doped PrOFeAs, which is far beyond the McMillan limit of 40K. Very soon, the team synthesized a series of iron-based superconductors with transition temperatures above 50 K, and keeps the record of Tc  (55K) for bulk Fe-based superconductors. Prof. Zhao won the 2013 First-Class National Natural Science Award (rank No.1) for the discovery of iron-based superconductors with Tc above 40K and the contribution to related physics. In 2015, Prof. Zhao won the Bernd T. Matthias prize which is the most important international prize in the field of superconductivity research.

Prof. Zhao has been devoting himself to the research of high Tc superconductivity for more than 40 years. He has also been making efforts on training young scientists and creating nice research atmosphere for them. As the main advocator, promoter and practitioner, Prof. Zhao has made irreplaceable contribution to rooting and ascending the research on high-Tc superconductivity of China among the forefront of the world.