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Dr Polykarp Kusch

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Dr Polykarp Kusch Famous memorial

Birth
Blankenburg, Landkreis Harz, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Death
20 Mar 1993 (aged 82)
Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Burial
Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown
Memorial ID
93065092 View Source

Nobel Prize Recipient. Polykarp Kusch, a German-born American experimental physicist, received world-wide notoriety after being awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize in physics. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received the coveted award "for his precision determination of the magnetic moment of the electron." He received three nominations for the Nobel Prize candidacy. He shared jointly his award with another American physicist, Willis E. Lamb. In 1947 he and a student, Henry M. Foley, discovered an improved way, with great accuracy and reliability, of measuring the magnetic moment of the electron and for this finding, he received the Nobel Prize. Lamb was at Columbia University during this time and their research complimented each other’s. Born the son of a Lutheran minister, he arrived in the United States as an infant, becoming an American citizen in 1922. After finishing public schools, he entered Case Institute of Technology, later in 1967 named Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He first studied chemistry but his focus changed to physics. After graduating in 1931 with a bachelor of science degree, he entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a master’s degree in 1933. He taught at the college while earning his degrees. Staying at the same facility, he earned in 1936 his Ph.D. with the thesis, "The Molecular Spectrum of Caesium and Rubidium”. From 1936 to 1937, he performed research at the University of Minnesota in the field of mass spectroscopy. Since 1937, he has been associated with the Department of Physics of Columbia University in New York City, working under 1944 Nobel Prize recipient Isidor Isaac Rabi. During World War II, he spent his time researching radar at several universities and at Westinghouse and Bell Laboratories, returning to Columbia in 1946 as associate professor of physics, then being promoted to professor in 1949. Succeeding this promotion, he advanced in his scholastic career being department chairman from 1949 to 1952 and 1960 to 1963, director of the radiation laboratory from 1952 to 1960, and academic vice president and provost from 1969 to 1972. Teaching mainly freshman and sophomore students, he was awarded Teacher of the Year at Columbia University in 1959. In 1972 he accepted a position as professor at the fairly new University of Texas in Dallas, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. He has been memorialized on that facility’s campus with the Polykarp Kusch Auditorium, a lecture hall he designed specifically for physics demonstrations. Besides science, his interests expanded to humanitarian concerns including problems of hunger, the plight of Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate, and the human loss of the Vietnam War. His papers include “The Magnetic Moment of the Electron,” in the professional periodical, “Physical Review” in 1948 with Henry M. Foley; and “Hyperfine Structure by the Method of Atomic Beams: Properties of Nuclei and of the Electron,” in the professional periodical, “Science” in 1956.” He received eight honorary degrees. He married in 1935 and the couple had three daughters before his wife’s death in 1959. He remarried a year later and the couple had two daughters. He had a series of strokes, dying at his home. At the family’s wishes, no funeral service was held and he was cremated. According to his family, he was named, by his father, “Polykarp” in honor of the Christian martyr, Polycarp, who was the Bishop of Smyrna and shared his birth date of January 26th, and he shared his death date with Sir Isaac Newton.

Nobel Prize Recipient. Polykarp Kusch, a German-born American experimental physicist, received world-wide notoriety after being awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize in physics. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received the coveted award "for his precision determination of the magnetic moment of the electron." He received three nominations for the Nobel Prize candidacy. He shared jointly his award with another American physicist, Willis E. Lamb. In 1947 he and a student, Henry M. Foley, discovered an improved way, with great accuracy and reliability, of measuring the magnetic moment of the electron and for this finding, he received the Nobel Prize. Lamb was at Columbia University during this time and their research complimented each other’s. Born the son of a Lutheran minister, he arrived in the United States as an infant, becoming an American citizen in 1922. After finishing public schools, he entered Case Institute of Technology, later in 1967 named Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He first studied chemistry but his focus changed to physics. After graduating in 1931 with a bachelor of science degree, he entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a master’s degree in 1933. He taught at the college while earning his degrees. Staying at the same facility, he earned in 1936 his Ph.D. with the thesis, "The Molecular Spectrum of Caesium and Rubidium”. From 1936 to 1937, he performed research at the University of Minnesota in the field of mass spectroscopy. Since 1937, he has been associated with the Department of Physics of Columbia University in New York City, working under 1944 Nobel Prize recipient Isidor Isaac Rabi. During World War II, he spent his time researching radar at several universities and at Westinghouse and Bell Laboratories, returning to Columbia in 1946 as associate professor of physics, then being promoted to professor in 1949. Succeeding this promotion, he advanced in his scholastic career being department chairman from 1949 to 1952 and 1960 to 1963, director of the radiation laboratory from 1952 to 1960, and academic vice president and provost from 1969 to 1972. Teaching mainly freshman and sophomore students, he was awarded Teacher of the Year at Columbia University in 1959. In 1972 he accepted a position as professor at the fairly new University of Texas in Dallas, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. He has been memorialized on that facility’s campus with the Polykarp Kusch Auditorium, a lecture hall he designed specifically for physics demonstrations. Besides science, his interests expanded to humanitarian concerns including problems of hunger, the plight of Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate, and the human loss of the Vietnam War. His papers include “The Magnetic Moment of the Electron,” in the professional periodical, “Physical Review” in 1948 with Henry M. Foley; and “Hyperfine Structure by the Method of Atomic Beams: Properties of Nuclei and of the Electron,” in the professional periodical, “Science” in 1956.” He received eight honorary degrees. He married in 1935 and the couple had three daughters before his wife’s death in 1959. He remarried a year later and the couple had two daughters. He had a series of strokes, dying at his home. At the family’s wishes, no funeral service was held and he was cremated. According to his family, he was named, by his father, “Polykarp” in honor of the Christian martyr, Polycarp, who was the Bishop of Smyrna and shared his birth date of January 26th, and he shared his death date with Sir Isaac Newton.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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