Birge, Raymond T. (Raymond Thayer), b. 1887.

Alternative names
Birth 1887-03-13
Death 1980-03-22
German, English

Biographical notes:

Physicist (spectroscopy, statistics). On the physics faculty at Syracuse University, 1913-1918; University of California at Berkeley from 1918, department chair, 1933-1955; chairman of committee on physical constants, National Research Council, 1930-1937.

From the description of Lectures by Niels Bohr and by R. T. Birge, 1922-1969. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79125366

From the description of Comments on A. A. Michelson, 1962. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82481619

Professor of physics and chairman of the Physics Dept., University of California, Berkeley.

From the description of Raymond Thayer Birge papers, 1909-1969. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122551950

Birge died in 1980.

From the description of The early history of the Physics Department of the University of California, 1963. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 77990801

From the description of History of the [University of California, Berkeley] Physics Department, 1868-1942. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83892621


Raymond Thayer Birge was born in Brooklyn, New York, March 13, 1887, to John Thaddeus and Caroline S. (Raymond) Birge. He attended high school in Troy, New York. From there he went to the University of Wisconsin where he obtained his A.B. in 1909, his A.M. in 1910 and his Ph.D. in 1914. His dissertation was on the photographing of the band spectrum of nitrogen and required a technique including careful measurement.

In 1913 he accepted his first academic position, as instructor of physics at Syracuse University. In 1915 he was promoted to assistant professor. After the first World War the cost of living rose sharply and this, coupled with the threat of an increased teaching load leaving little or no time for research, inspired Birge to look for a position elsewhere. He greatly respected E. P. Lewis and knew of the well equipped spectroscopy laboratory at the University of California, and, when offered the position of instructor there in 1918, he readily accepted. In 1926 he was made professor of physics and by 1933 was chairman of the Department, a position he retained until his retirement.

His research in spectroscopy led to several important contributions characterized by his style of rigorous and close attention to detail. He provided the original experimental verifications of quantum theory; discovered the carbon 13 isotope; predicted the existence of deuterium; and made a critical analysis and calculation of values of all general physical constants.

His chairmanship of the Physics Department was characterized by an emphasis on research including the strengthening of the Department by attracting promising young men and giving them as much freedom to pursue research as possible.

He retired in 1955 and, among other things, wrote a detailed history of the Physics Department and began a more intensive look at the scientific validity of certain psychic phenomena.

From the guide to the Raymond Thayer Birge Papers, 1909-1969, (The Bancroft Library.)


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