Ivar Giaever was born in Bergen, Norway, on 5th April, 1929. He studied electrical engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology before moving to Canada where he worked as a mechanical engineer with the General Electric Company.
Giaever emigrated to the United States in 1956 where he did graduate work at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1964. Giaever's work on tunnelling and superconductivity won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1973.