You are on page 1of 2

Clinton Joseph Davisson - Biography

Clinton Joseph Davisson Biography The Nobel Prize in


Physics 1937
Clinton Joseph Davisson was Presentation Speech
born at Bloomington, Illinois,
U.S.A., October 22, 1881, son of Clinton Davisson
Joseph Davisson, an artisan, native Biography
of Ohio, descendant of early Dutch Nobel Lecture
and French settlers of Virginia,
Union veteran of the American Civil George Paget Thomson
War, and Mary Calvert, a school- Biography
teacher, native of Pennsylvania, of Nobel Lecture
English and Scotch parentage.

He attended the Bloomington public


schools, and on graduation from
1936 1938
High School in 1902 was granted a
scholarschip by the University of Chicago for proficiency in The 1937 Prize in:
mathematics and physics. In September of that year he entered Physics
the University of Chicago and came at once under the influence Chemistry
Physiology or Medicine
of Professor R.A. Millikan. Unable for financial reasons to
Literature
continue at Chicago the following year he found employment
Peace
with a telephone company in his home town. In January 1904
he was appointed assistant in physics at Purdue University on
recommendation of Professor Millikan. He returned to Chicago in Find a Laureate:
June 1904 and remained in residence at the University until Name
August 1905. In September 1905, again on the
recommendation of Professor Millikan, he was appointed part-
time instructor in physics at Princeton University. This post he
held until 1910, studying, as his duties permitted, under
Professor Francis Magie, Professor E. P. Adams, Professor ( later
Sir ) James Jeans and particularly under Professor O.W.
Richardson. During a part of this period Davisson returned to
the University of Chicago for the summer sessions and in August
1908 received a B.S. degree from that institution.

He was awarded a Fellowship in Physics at Princeton for the year


1910-1911 and during that year completed requirements for the
degree of Ph.D. which he received dune 1911. His thesis, under
Professor Richardson, was On The Thermal Emission of Positive
Ions From Alkaline Earth Salts.

From September 1911 until June 1917 he was an instructor in


the Department of Physics at the Carnegie Institute of
Technology, Pittsburgh, Pa. During the summer of 1913 he
worked in the Cavendish Laboratory under Professor (later Sir)
J.J. Thomson.

http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1937/davisson-bio.html (1 of 2) [23/08/2002 11:40:27]


Clinton Joseph Davisson - Biography

In April 1917 he was refused enlistment in the United States


Army. In June of the same year he accepted war-time
employment in the Engineering Department of the Western
Electric Company (later Bell Telephone Laboratories), New York
City - at first for summer, then, on leave of absence from
Carnegie Tech., for the duration of the World War. At the end of
the war he resigned an assistant professorship to which he had
been appointed at Carnegie Tech. to continue as a Member of
the Technical Staff of the Telephone Laboratories.

The series of investigations which led to the discovery of


electron diffraction in 1927 was begun in 1919 and was
continued into 1929 with the collaboration first of Dr. C.H.
Kunsman, and from 1924 on, of Dr. L.H. Germer. During the
same period researches were carried on in thermal radiation
with the collaboration of Mr. J.R. Weeks, and in thermionics with
Dr. H.A. Pidgeon and Dr. Germer.

From 1930-1937 Dr. Davisson devoted himself to the study of


the theory of electron optics and to applications of this theory to
engineering problems. He then investigated the scattering and
reflection of very slow electrons by metals. During World War II
he worked on the theory of electronic devices and on a variety
of crystal physics problems.

In 1946 he retired from Bell Telephone Laboratories after 29


years of service. From 1947 to 1949, he was Visiting Professor
of Physics at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

In 1928 he was awarded the Comstock Prize by the National


Academy of Sciences, in 1931 the Elliott Cresson Medal by the
Franklin Institute, and in 1935 the Hughes Medal by the Royal
Society (London), and in 1941 the Alumni Medal by the
University of Chicago. He held honorary doctorates from Purdue
University, Princeton University, the University of Lyon and
Colby College.

In 1911 he married Charlotte Sara Richardson, a sister of


Professor Richardson. He died in Charlottesville on February 1,
1958, at the age of 76, and was survived by his wife, three sons
and one daughter.

From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1922-1941.

Last modified October 18, 2001 Contact Nobel e-Museum


Copyright 2002 The Nobel Foundation The Official Web Site of The Nobel Foundation

http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1937/davisson-bio.html (2 of 2) [23/08/2002 11:40:27]