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Allison, Samuel King (13 November 1900–15 September 1965), physicist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Samuel Buell Allison, a high school principal, and Caroline King. After attending the John Fiske Grammar School, Allison graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1917. He became an honors student in science and mathematics and a varsity swimmer at the University of Chicago, graduating with a B.S. in physics in 1921; he remained to earn a doctorate in physics in 1923. As a graduate student under the supervision of ...

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Alvarez, Luis Walter (13 June 1911–01 September 1988), physicist and inventor, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Walter Clement Alvarez, a physician, and Harriet Smyth, a teacher. Alvarez attended the University of Chicago from 1928 to 1936, earning his bachelor of science degree in physics in 1932, his master of science in 1934, and his Ph.D. in 1936. Alvarez married Geraldine Smithwick on 15 April 1936. He had two children with her, including the geologist Walter Alvarez. The marriage ended in divorce. Alvarez married Janet Lucile Landis in 1958 and had two children with her. Alvarez held forty patents for inventions in radar, optics, and electronics. For his work with liquid hydrogen bubble chambers he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1968....

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Anderson, Carl David (03 September 1905–11 January 1991), physicist, was born in New York City, the son of Carl David Anderson and Emma Adolfina Ajaxson. In 1912 the family moved to Los Angeles, where the elder Anderson managed a small restaurant business. Carl Anderson graduated from Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in 1923. The following fall he entered the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, intending to study electrical engineering. In his sophomore year, during a course with ...

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Anderson, Herbert Lawrence (24 May 1914–16 July 1988), physicist, was born in New York City, the son of Joseph Anderson; his mother’s name is not recorded. After graduating from New York City public schools in 1932, he entered Columbia University, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1935 and a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1936. As a graduate student in physics at Columbia under the direction of John R. Dunning, Anderson assisted in the construction of a 37-inch cyclotron, which led to a lifelong interest in nuclear physics. In 1939 he began working closely with Nobel laureate ...

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Anderson, John August (07 August 1876–02 December 1959), physicist, was born in Rollag, Minnesota, the son of Brede Anderson and Ellen Martha Berg, farmers. Anderson received his B.S. in 1900 from Valparaiso College, Indiana, and entered Johns Hopkins University in 1904 for graduate work in physics. He received his Ph.D. in 1907, doing research in laboratory spectroscopy under Joseph Sweetman Ames. After a brief period at the Rouss Physical Laboratory of the University of Virginia, Anderson returned to Johns Hopkins in 1908 as an instructor, eventually becoming associate professor in 1911. During his time in Baltimore Anderson married Josephine Virginia Barron in 1909; they had no children....

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Anslow, Gladys Amelia (22 May 1892–31 March 1969), physicist, educator, and spectroscopist, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Anslow, a textile colorist, lay preacher, and insurance agent, and Ella Iola Leonard, an art and music teacher. In 1909 she entered Smith College in nearby Northampton. Her first science course there was Frank Waterman’s sophomore physics, which she found thrilling. In her junior year she took laboratory physics, using Waterman’s text, and in her senior year she took courses in mechanics, electricity, and magnetism from Waterman....

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Arnold, Harold DeForest (03 September 1883–10 July 1933), physicist, was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, the son of Calvin Arnold and Audra Allen. Arnold attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, from which he received a bachelor of philosophy degree in 1906. The following year he earned an M.S. in physics from the same institution. In 1911 he received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, where he had studied under the future Nobel laureate ...

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Babcock, Harold Delos (24 January 1882–08 April 1968), physicist and astrophysicist, was born in Edgerton, Wisconsin, the son of Emilus Welcome Babcock, a general store owner and farmer, and Mary Eliza Brown. Babcock’s rural isolation and his frail health (exacerbated by an early attack of rheumatic fever) may have impelled his pursuit of intellectual activities. As a youth, he became interested in science and engineering, and particularly in electricity and photography. In 1896 his family moved to Los Angeles, California, and in 1901 he matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, in the College of Electrical Engineering. While at Berkeley, Babcock specialized in laboratory physics and concentrated on electricity and spectroscopy (the production and investigation of the spectra of luminous bodies). He completed his studies in 1906 and received a B.S. in absentia the following year. In 1907 Babcock married Mary G. Henderson; they had one son, Horace Welcome, who later became an astronomer and director of the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories....

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Badger, Richard McLean (04 May 1896–26 November 1974), physical chemist and molecular spectroscopist, was born in Elgin, Illinois, the son of Joseph Stillman Badger, a manager for General Electric, and Carrie Mabel Hewitt. When Richard was six months old, General Electric assigned his father to supervise the construction of an electric street railway in Brisbane, Australia, so Richard’s first six years were spent in Australia with his family; he was then sent back to the United States to attend school. After four years in an Elgin grammar school he went back to Australia, where he completed elementary school and began secondary school. When he was about sixteen, he returned with his family to Elgin and finished high school there; he then attended the junior college of Elgin Academy. In 1916 he enrolled at Northwestern University, but his academic career was interrupted by World War I. From 1917 to 1919 he served in France as a member of the U.S. Army’s 311th Field Signal Battalion....

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John Bardeen. [left to right] William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92544).

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Bardeen, John (23 May 1908–30 January 1991), physicist, was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Charles Russell Bardeen, an anatomist and dean of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and Althea Harmer. Bardeen received his early education at an experimental school in Madison, and after skipping the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades he entered the University High School. He then transferred to Central High School, from which he graduated in 1923. In his youth Bardeen was a champion swimmer and billiard player despite a tremor that he had suffered since infancy. In 1924 he entered the University of Wisconsin, where in 1928 he earned a degree in electrical engineering with mathematics and physics as his minor studies. While an undergraduate, he worked in the engineering department of the Western Electric Company (the predecessor of Bell Telephone Laboratories). Bardeen received an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1929 from Wisconsin, having carried out experiments on the applied physics of radiation from antennas. In 1930 he went with one of his advisors, Leo J. Peters, to work for the Gulf Research and Development Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There they worked to develop new techniques for analyzing maps of magnetic and gravitational field strength to facilitate locating oil deposits. Bardeen enrolled in 1933 at Princeton University, where he studied mathematics under the quantum physicist ...

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David Lindsay Roberts

Barus, Carl (19 February 1856–20 September 1935), physicist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Carl Barus, a musician, and Sophia Möllman. Both parents had emigrated from Germany. Throughout Carl’s childhood and youth the family lived in Cincinnati, his father making a modest income leading orchestral and choral productions and playing the organ in churches and synagogues. Carl’s formal education included seven years of bilingual grammar school instruction (in English in the morning, in German in the afternoon). Barus distinguished himself in mathematics at Woodward High School, where he was a classmate of ...

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Beams, Jesse Wakefield (25 December 1898–25 July 1977), physicist, was born in Belle Plains, Kansas, the son of Jesse Wakefield Beams and Kathryn Wylie, farmers. Beams graduated from Fairmont College (now Wichita State University) in 1921. He spent the following year earning a master’s degree in physics at the University of Wisconsin. Beams then accepted a position as an instructor in physics at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). The chairman of the Polytechnic’s physics department, Fred Allison, was impressed with Beams’s abilities in experimental physics and encouraged him to go on for a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. Accepting a teaching fellowship there for 1923 and 1924, Beams worked under Professor Carroll M. Sparrow, who had also been Allison’s mentor....

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Becket, Frederick Mark (11 January 1875–01 December 1942), industrial electrometallurgist, was born in Montreal, Canada, the son of Robert Anderson Becket, a businessman, and Anne Wilson. Becket attended McGill University, graduating in 1895 with a degree in electrical engineering. Intending initially to follow a career in the electrical industry, he went to work for Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania....

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Birge, Raymond Thayer (13 March 1887–22 March 1980), physicist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of John Thaddeus Birge, a river transportation worker, and Caroline S. Raymond. In 1898 he moved with his family to Troy, New York, where his father took a management position with a washing machine manufacturer. After graduating from high school, he studied and taught bookkeeping at the local business college for a year before matriculating at the University of Wisconsin in 1906. Shortly thereafter he developed an interest in physics and received his A.B. in that discipline in 1909. He remained at Wisconsin to continue his studies in spectroscopy, the visual analysis of the spectra of electromagnetic radiation emitted by energized atoms, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in physics in 1910 and 1914, respectively....

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Charles W. Carey Jr.

Bloch, Felix (23 October 1905–10 September 1983), physicist, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, the son of Gustav Bloch, a wholesale grain dealer, and Agnes Meyer. He matriculated at Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology in 1924 with the intention of becoming an engineer, but after spending a summer in an iron foundry he opted instead to become a physicist. In 1927 he enrolled at the University of Leipzig in Germany and received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics the next year. His doctoral dissertation made a major contribution to the development of quantum physics by explaining electrical conductivity in metals in terms of the wave behavior of electrons. Known today as the Bloch theorem, this explanation led to the postulation of the band theory, which explains a solid’s relative conductivity in terms of the range of electron energy levels or bands that it can accommodate. This theory led by turns to the identification of insulators and semiconductors and the invention of the transistor, the main components of solid-state electronics....

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Bonner, Tom Wilkerson (19 October 1910–06 December 1961), physicist, was born in Greenville, Texas, the son of Medona Bonner, a lawyer, and Bessie Spears. He went to high school in Dallas, Texas, and upon graduation he entered Southern Methodist University, where he received his B.S. in physics in 1931. He then attended the Rice Institute (now Rice University) in Houston, Texas, where he was awarded an A.M. in 1932 and a Ph.D. in 1934; his dissertation, “Collisions of Neutrons with Atomic Nuclei,” was directed by Harold A. Wilson. A National Research Council fellow at the California Institute of Technology during the years 1934–1936, he worked with ...

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Bowen, Ira Sprague (21 December 1898–06 February 1973), astrophysicist and first director of the combined Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, was born in Seneca Falls, New York, the son of James H. Bowen, a Methodist minister, and Philinda Sprague, who became a teacher after her husband’s death. Bowen (always known as “Ike” to his friends) attended the high school and three years of the junior college that formed part of the Houghton Wesleyan Methodist Seminary, at which his mother taught. He was an excellent student. His teacher in physics, mathematics, and astronomy, J. S. Luckey, the president of the college, helped him transfer to Oberlin College for his senior year. Bowen received his A.B. at Oberlin in 1919 and entered the University of Chicago as a graduate student in physics. In two years he took all the graduate courses taught by ...

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Brace, DeWitt Bristol (05 January 1859–02 October 1905), physicist, was born in Wilson, New York, the son of Lusk Brace, a farmer and grain mill operator, and Emily Bristol. In the early 1860s, the Braces moved to Lockport, New York, where DeWitt attended the local common and high schools. In 1877 he entered Boston University, receiving a bachelor of arts degree (1881). In 1881 he began graduate study in physics at the Johns Hopkins University, where he worked with ...

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Brattain, Walter H. (10 February 1902–13 October 1987), physicist, was born Walter Houser Brattain in Amoy, China, the eldest of five children of Ross R. Brattain, a teacher in a private school for Chinese boys, and Ottilie Houser Brattain. Early in Brattain's childhood the Brattain family returned from China and settled in Tonasket, Washington, a small town where the senior Brattain had grown up. On his return to the United States Ross Brattain switched from teaching to homesteading, cattle ranching, and flour milling. After completing his secondary education in the schools in Tonasket, Walter enrolled at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he majored in mathematics and physics and received a B.S. degree in 1924. He then entered the University of Oregon and in 1926 was awarded a master's degree in physics. In 1929 he transferred to the University of Minnesota, receiving a Ph.D. in physics. While studying for his Ph.D. Brattain worked at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.; there, with Vincent E. Heaton, he designed a temperature-controlled oscillator and also worked on improving accuracy in measurements of time and vibratory frequency. Although Brattain enjoyed outdoor life and ranching, he attributed his becoming a physicist to his hatred of farming. He once stated, “following the horse and a harrow in the dust is what made a physicist of me.”...