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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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Brode, Wallace Reed (12 June 1900–10 August 1974), chemist and physicist, was born in Walla Walla, Washington, one of the triplet sons of Howard Stidham Brode and Martha Catherine Bigham. His father, for more than forty years professor of zoology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, aroused an interest in science in his four sons by making them a hiking class of nature students. All four earned B.S. degrees at Whitman College—Brode in 1921—and all became academic scientists....

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Debye, Peter Joseph William (24 March 1884–02 November 1966), physicist and physical chemist, was born Petrus Josephus Wilhelmus Debije in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the son of Wilhelmus Johannes Debije, a supervisor in a manufacturing firm, and Maria Reumkens. Debye attended Maastricht schools but did not intend to continue his education and never took the courses required for entrance to Dutch universities. In 1901 he changed his plans and enrolled in the Aachen Technical University in Germany, the academic center nearest Maastricht, where he received a degree in electrical engineering in 1905. In Aachen he transliterated his Dutch name into Peter Debye and studied with physics professor Arnold Sommerfeld, a future leader in the development of the quantum theory. Sommerfeld turned Debye’s interest toward theoretical physics and took Debye with him in 1906 when he became a professor at the University of Munich. There Debye received a Ph.D. in physics in 1908....

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Harkins, William Draper (28 December 1873–07 March 1951), physical chemist and nuclear scientist, was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania (where the first commercial development of the Pennsylvania natural gas fields took place), the son of Nelson Goodrich Harkins, variously described as a fruit rancher, fruit broker, and oil industry pioneer, and Sarah Eliza Draper. At the age of nineteen he moved to Escondido, California. In 1896 he matriculated at Stanford University, where he was, first, assistant (1898–1900) and, then, instructor (1900) in chemistry. After receiving his B.A. degree in 1900, he served as professor and chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Montana at Missoula (1900–1912). During this period he was president of the Missoula City Board of Health (1906–1912), chemist in charge of smelter investigations for the Anaconda Farmers’ Association (1902–1910), and a consultant for the Mountain Copper Company of California (1904) and the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1911). He also pursued postgraduate work at the University of Chicago (1901, 1904) and Stanford University (1905–1906). In 1904 he married Anna Louise Hatheway, chairman of the University of Montana Department of English; they had two children. He was awarded the first Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford on 10 June 1907....

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Hirschfelder, Joseph Oakland (27 May 1911–30 March 1990), chemist and physicist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Arthur Douglas Hirschfelder, a physician and professor of pharmacology, and May Rosalie Straus. He received his B.S. degree from Yale University in 1931 and a double Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry and theoretical physics from Princeton University in 1936. Following a year as a postdoctoral fellow with ...

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Mulliken, Robert Sanderson (07 June 1896–31 October 1986), chemical physicist, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Parsons Mulliken, a renowned organic chemist, and Katherine Wilmarth Mulliken, a distant relative of his father. Mulliken was a quiet and well-behaved child who attended public schools....

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Onsager, Lars (27 November 1903–05 October 1976), chemist and physicist, was born in Oslo, Norway, the son of Erling Onsager, a barrister of the Supreme Court of Norway, and Ingrid Kirkeby. He was raised in Oslo, where he studied literature, philosophy, fine arts, and the Norwegian epics. In the fall of 1920 he entered Norges Tekniske Høgskole (Norwegian Institute of Technology) in Trondheim. At age twenty, while still a student, he proposed a correction to the theory of strong electrolytes recently published by ...

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Tolman, Richard Chace (27 November 1881–05 September 1948), physical chemist and mathematical physicist, was born in West Newton, Massachusetts, the son of James Pike Tolman, a businessman and president of Samson Cordage Works, and Mary Chace, founder of a public kindergarten in Boston. The strong sense of duty and moral obligation that motivated the parents were also characteristic of the son throughout his life. Tolman attended public schools in West Newton before entering the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He graduated in 1903 with a B.S., having majored in chemical engineering and written a thesis on the sizing of cotton warps. While at MIT, he was a member of the chemical society, mechanical engineering society, and technology club, editor-in-chief of ...