John Pendry is a condensed matter theorist. He has worked at the Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, since 1981. He began his career in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, followed by six years at the Daresbury Laboratory, at that time the UK synchrotron radiation centre, where he headed the theoretical group. His early work concerned electronic and structural properties of surfaces developing the theory of low energy diffraction and of electronic surface states. Another interest has been transport in disordered systems where he produced a complete theory of the statistics of transport in one dimensional systems. In 1992 Pendry turned his attention to photonic materials and developed some of the first computer codes capable of handling these novel materials. This led to his present research.
Pendry initiated the current interest in the remarkable electromagnetic properties of "metamaterials" whose properties owe more to their micro-structure than to the constituent materials. These made accessible completely novel materials with properties not found in nature. Successively metamaterials 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 unrealised because of the absence of suitable materials. In collaboration with a team of scientists at Duke University, he has developed the concept of "transformation optics" 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. Metamaterials give the possibility of building such a cloak and a versions of this design working in various regions of the spectrum and exploiting the properties of metamaterials has now been implemented experimentally first by the Duke team and subsequently by many other groups. In particular optical versions of the cloak have now been constructed. Current research main involves application of the principles of transformation optics to novel plasmonic systems.