William 'Joe' Vinen made significant contributions to low-temperature physics. His experiments with Henry E. Hall on the attenuation of second sound in rotating liquid helium provided the first demonstration of the probable existence of quantized vortex lines. Later, he gave the first direct proof that the circulation was quantised.
His extensive studies of heat currents in liquid helium led to a thorough understanding of mutual friction between the normal and superfluid components and of critical flow effects. At Birmingham, he has continued to make contributions to the liquid helium problem, including light-scattering studies of the superfluid phase transition.
He worked also on the problem of flux flow and dissipation processes in type-II superconductors, and on the properties of two-dimensional systems. Later, he worked extensively on turbulence in a superfluid (quantum turbulence), with emphasis on specifically quantum effects and on the connections with turbulence in a classical fluid.