Arthur Holly Compton


Arthur Holly Compton
(1892-1962)

American physicist Arthur Holly Compton was one of the pioneers of high-energy physics. He was born on 10 September 1892 in Wooster, Ohio. After graduating from Wooster College, Compton attended Princeton University and studied the angular distribution of X-rays reflected from crystals. He received his Ph.D. in 1916.

After working as a research engineer at Westinghouse Corporation for a few years, Compton won a National Research Council fellowship in 1919, and went to Cambridge, England to study the properties of scattered gamma rays.

Compton served as head of the physics department at Washington University from 1920 until 1923. In 1923, Compton joined the faculty at the University of Chicago and resumed his work on X-rays, studying the changes that take place in the wavelength of X-rays when they collide with electrons in metals. This so-called "Compton Effect" provided proof that electromagnetic radiation possesses properties of both waves and particles. This work earned Compton the 1927 Nobel Prize for Physics, which he shared with C.T.R. Wilson. Compton then began researching cosmic rays.

In 1941, Compton became chairman of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee to Study the Military Potential of Atomic Energy. The committee's work contributed to the development of the Manhattan Project. From 1942 to 1945 Compton was director of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, which developed the first self-sustaining atomic chain reaction and paved the way for controlled release of nuclear energy. He became chancellor of Washington University in 1945 and was professor of natural history there from 1953 until 1961.

Arthur Holly Compton died on 15 March 1962.




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