Friday, June 10, 2011

APS Presidents: 1899-1925

The American Physical Society has had 97 presidents since its inception in 1899. Some of them include big-name physicists familiar in households and classrooms while others retain more localized fame. All, however, were contributors to science. Here's a look - the first part in an ongoing series - at some of APS' former presidents from the last century.

1899 - Henry Augustus Rowland
Distinction: First president of the American Physical Society
Known for: Research on the diffraction of light
Interesting Facts: He was the first chair of physics at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, MD and his house in Baltimore has been designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark


1901 - Albert Abraham Michelson
Distinction: Nobel Laureate in physics - He was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in science
Known for: Work on measuring the speed of light and the Michelson-Morley experiment that showed evidence of the luminiferous aether, the medium through which light propagates
Interesting Facts: A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Michelson was an instructor of physics and chemistry there; A sidewalk monument at the Academy shows the path of one of Michelson's experiments which measured the speed of light


1903 - Arthur Gordon Webster
Distinction: Founder of the American Physical Society
Known for: Work on acoustics and ballistics
Interesting Facts: He was fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French and Swedish and spoke some Italian, Spanish and Russian as well.


1914 – Ernest George Merritt
Distinction: Former professor of physics at Cornell University
Known for: Studies of how photography works and the luminescent properties of many materials
Interesting Facts: Upon his retirement, took delight in being known as “E. Merritt, emeritus”


1916 - Robert Andrews Millikan
Distinction: Nobel Laureate in physics
Known for: Measuring the charge of a single electron and work on the photoelectric effect
Interesting Facts: Co-authored some of the first physics books to include conceptual homework questions instead of just traditional plug and solve formula questions


1921 - Theodore Lyman
Distinction: Former Director of Harvard’s Jefferson Physical Laboratory
Known for: Studies on diffraction gratings - splitting light into various colors - and the Lyman series of spectral lines (named for him)
Interesting Facts: A crater on the far side of the Moon is named after him


1923 - Thomas Corwin Mendenhall
Distinction: Former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Known for: Self-taught physicist and meteorologist
Interesting Facts: Created a system of weather signals for railroad trains that was used throughout the U.S. and Canada


1925 - Dayton Clarence Miller
Distinction: Former president of the Acoustical Society of America
Known for: Studies on X-ray imagery and aether theory
Interesting Facts: Made some of the first X-ray images of hidden objects including a bullet lodged in a man's limb

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