I was 'trolling' around the 'net looking for a few articles when I came across this article on the Kondo effect. This is where the resistivity of a certain type metal, as you lower the temperature, suddenly shoots up, which is not what is expected. This phenomenon was discovered in the 1930's, and was explained by Jun Kondo in the 1960's.
What is fascinating here is that this is, as far as I know, the first example of an "asymptotic freedom" in nature that was discovered. This, of course, was waaaaay before the same type of description was applied to the strong interaction in elementary particles. It reinforces my view earlier that there are many aspects of condensed matter physics that actually are extremely important and "fundamental". Peter Higgs, in fact, clearly confesses to getting his idea about the Higgs mechanism out of condensed matter. So these are just a few of the examples where this field actually has a huge and significant contribution to fundamental knowledge. It isn't just an "applied physics" field, even though it is responsible for the understanding of properties of materials that we use.
I just wish many students that are going "ga-ga" over String theory and particle physics would realize this.