Allison, Samuel King, 1900-1965

Alternative names
Birth 1900-11-13
Death 1965-09-15

Biographical notes:

Physicist. S.B., University of Chicago, 1921; Ph. D., 1923. National Research Fellow, Harvard University, 1923-1925. Research associate, Carnegie Institution, 1925-1926. Instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, University of California, Berkeley, 1926-1930. Associate professor of physics, University of Chicago, 1930-1942; professor, 1942-1959; Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor, 1959-1965. Member of Manhattan Project, 1942-1945. Director of Enrico Fermi Institute (originally called Institute for Nuclear Studies), 1945-1958, 1963-1965.

From the description of Papers, 1920-1965 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 52250083

Samuel King Allison was born in Chicago on November 13, 1900. In 1917 he entered the University of Chicago and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1921 and his doctorate in 1923. Following his graduation, he became a fellow of the National Research Council at Harvard University (1923-1925); a fellow at the Carnegie Institute (1925-1926); and a member of the faculty at the University of California (1926-1930). In 1930 Allison returned to the University of Chicago, and, from that time until his death in September 1965, continued to be associated with the University.

During his career at the University of Chicago, Allison was not only active as a teacher and a research scientist, but also as an administrator and a civil servant. In the 1930s, Allison conducted experiments with X-rays, and published his results in a book, X-rays in Theory and Experiment. In the 1940s he began work on the liberation of nuclear energy, and was a member of the team working under Enrico Fermi which achieved the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942. Between 1943 and 1944 Allison served as director of the "Metallurgical Laboratory" which was developing a method for producing plutonium.

In November, 1944 Allison joined the Manhattan Project and was chairman of the Technical and Scheduling Committee at the Los Alamos Laboratory. He returned to the University of Chicago in 1945 to become the first director of the newly-formed Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies. While director of the Institute, Allison encouraged the exchange of scientific information, free from military control. Allison also helped to found The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and visited Spain and South America as guest lecturer and advisor.

In order to devote all of his time to research projects, Allison resigned as director of the Fermi Institute in 1958. He continued to travel, however, and was appointed by the Organization of American States to a "Direct Technical Assistance Field Mission" to the Centro Atomico, San Carlos de Variloche. From 1960 to 1963 Allison also served as Chairman of the Physics Section of the National Academy of Sciences.

When Herbert L. Anderson, Allison's successor at the Fermi Institute, resigned in 1963 to continue his research with a new particle accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory, Allison resumed his duties as director. Two years later, on September 1, 1965, Allison died while attending the Plasma Physics and Controlled Nuclear Fusion Research Conference held in Culham, England.

From the guide to the Allison, Samuel King. Papers, 1920-1965, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • X-rays
  • Physics
  • Betatron


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