Laporte, Otto 1902-1971

Alternative names
Birth 1902-07-23
Death 1971-03-28

Biographical notes:

Professor of physics at University of Michigan, specialist in the dynamics of fluids at high temperatures and atomic spectroscopy.

From the description of Otto LaPorte papers, 1926-1970. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419855

Otto Laporte was born in Mainz, Germany, in 1902, and began his formal training under Max Born at the University of Frankfurt in 1920. In 1921, Laporte began his studies under Arnold Sommerfeld at the University of Munich. His work in complex iron spectrum formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation which he completed in 1924. In the process of these investigations, he discovered the principle known among spectroscopists as the "Laporte rule," later known as the conservation of parity.

In 1924, Laporte was awarded one of the first International Educational Board fellowships through which he spent two years at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington. Laporte began teaching physics at the University of Michigan in 1926. In 1928, 1933, and 1937, Laporte was a guest lecturer at the Imperial University in Kyoto, Japan. He became proficient in Japanese and knowledgeable about the art and literature of Japan. While in Japan, he entered a national competition in haiku and won national recognition. Some of his Japanese writing and translation can be seen in notebooks 12 and 16.

In 1954-55 and again in 1961-63, Laporte served as a scientific advisor to the American ambassador in Tokyo. In 1944 he entered the field of fluid dynamics. Much of his work in this area is documented here. Laporte died of cancer in 1971 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences posthumously.

From the guide to the Otto Laporte papers, 1926-1970, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Scientists--Michigan--Ann Arbor
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