Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931

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Physicist (light). Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1873, and measured the velocity of light in 1878-1879 while on duty at the Academy as an instructor in physics and chemistry. On the physics faculty of Case Western Reserve (1883-1889); and University of Chicago: department chair (1892-1925), distinguished service professor from 1925; winner of Nobel Prize (1907).

From the description of Papers, 1803-1989 ; (bulk: 1861-1965). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82694665

Physicist (light). On the physics faculty of Case Western Reserve, 1883-1889; and University of Chicago: department chair, 1892-1925, distinguished service professor from 1925; winner of Nobel Prize, 1907.

From the description of Velocity of light: notebook, [ca. 1878]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83157991

From the description of Papers, 1894-1930. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82303039

Physicist (light). On the physics faculty of Case Western Reserve (1883-1889); and University of Chicago: department chair (1892-1925), distinguished service professor from 1925; winner of Nobel Prize (1907).

From the description of Papers, 1829-1970. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122564587

American physicist Albert Abraham Michelson, best known for his work on the measurement of the speed of light and especially for the Michelson-Morley experiment, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1907.

From the guide to the Albert Abraham Michelson facsimile, 1879, (American Philosophical Society)

Physicist (light). Graduate of the Naval Academy, Class of 1873, and measured the velocity of light in 1878-1879 while on duty at the Academy as an instructor in physics and chemistry. On the physics faculty of Case Western Reserve (1883-1889); and University of Chicago: department chair (1892-1925), distinguished service professor from 1925; winner of Nobel Prize (1907).

From the description of Addition to papers. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82797991

Physicist, astronomer, and geologist. Born in Germany; emigrated to United States where he graduated from and later taught at the United States Naval Academy. Recognized for his light transmission studies; inventions of Interferometer and Echelon Spectroscope; and studies of the rigidity and configuration of the earth. Most celebrated for his measurement of the speed of light.

From the description of Experimental Determination of the velocity of Light : treatise, [ca. 1882]. (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 122318689

Albert Abraham Michelson was born on December 19, 1852 in Strelno, Poland (then a part of Prussia) to Samuel and Rosalie Przlubska Michelson. Two years later the Michelson family left Strelno for Murphys, California where his father opened a dry goods store. Michelson attended Lincoln Grammar School in San Francisco, and graduated from Boys’ High School in 1869. The family then moved to Virginia City, Nevada.

That same year Michelson won an appointment to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was nominated by President Ulysses S. Grant after a recommendation from Senator William M. Stewart and Congressman Thomas Fitch of Nevada. Michelson graduated in 1873, spent two years at sea in the West Indies, and returned to the Academy in 1875 as an instructor in physics and chemistry.

In 1879 Michelson was posted to the Nautical Almanac Office in Washington, D.C. to work with Simon Newcomb, but the next year he received a leave of absence to continue his studies in Europe. He studied at the Universities of Berlin and Heidelberg, the College de France, and the École Polytechnique in Paris. Michelson resigned from the Navy and took an appointment as Professor of Physics in the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, Ohio in 1883. In 1890 he left to take a position at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Two years later he became a Professor of Physics and the first head of the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago.

Michelson rejoined the Navy in 1918 to serve in World War I, but returned to Chicago and was eventually appointed to the first of the Distinguished Professorships in 1925. Four years later he resigned from the University to work at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California.

Michelson’s achievements and honors during his long career are vast, but perhaps most impressive was his 1907 Nobel Prize in Physics-the first Nobel Prize won by an American scientist. He excelled in the study of optics, and gave a Nobel Prize acceptance speech “Recent Advances in Spectroscopy.” Other noteworthy achievements include the famous “Michelson-Morley experiment” (1887), which was acknowledged by Albert Einstein as an important foundation stone in the Theory of Relativity, and his work at Mount Wilson that produced the most accurate determination of the velocity of light ever obtained by strictly optical methods.

Michelson’s many awards also include the Matteucci Medal (Societá Italiana, 1904), Copley Medal (Royal Society, 1907), Elliot Cresson Medal (Franklin Institute, 1912), Draper Medal (National Academy of Sciences, 1916), Franklin Medal (Franklin Institute, 1923), the Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1923), and the Duddell Medal (Physical Society, 1929).

In addition to numerous papers, Michelson’s works include Velocity of Light (1902), Light Waves and Their Uses (1899-1903), and Studies in Optics (1927). His was president of the American Physical Society (1900), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1910-1911), and the National Academy of Sciences (1923-1927). He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Society of London, and the Optical Society. He was also an Associate of l’Académie Française.

Michelson married Margaret McLean Hemingway in 1877. The couple had two sons and a daughter-Albert Hemingway, Truman, and Elsa. They divorced, and Michelson married Edna Stanton of Lake Forest, Illinois in 1899. They had three daughters-Madeleine, Dorothy, and Beatrice. Albert Abraham Michelson died on May 9, 1931 in Pasadena, California.

On May 8, 1948, the United States Navy dedicated a new laboratory to Michelson in California’s Mohave Desert. The Michelson Museum, located in the Michelson Laboratory, contains Michelson’s early research apparatus, original manuscripts and research notes, reprints of published research papers, photographs, the Michelson medals, and the parchment announcing Michelson as the recipient of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Physics.

From the guide to the Michelson, Albert A. Papers, 1891-1969, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Student notes, 1916-1917. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. General correspondence, 1919-1930. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Loeb, Leonard B. (Leonard Benedict), 1891-. Oral history interview with Leonard B. Loeb, 1962 August 7. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bessey, Charles E. (Charles Edwin), 1845-1915. Papers of Charles E. Bessey, 1865-1915. Library of Congress
referencedIn Gingrich, Newell Shiffer, 1906-. Student notebooks, 1927-1929. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Experimental Determination of the velocity of Light : treatise, [ca. 1882]. Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Addition to papers. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Compton, Betty Charity McCloskey, 1916-. Oral history interview with Betty Charity McCloskey Compton, 1968 April 11 and 14. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Rowland, Henry Augustus, 1848-1901. Rowland (Henry Augustus) papers, 1793-1970. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Ira Sprague Bowen Papers, 1916-1961 California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives.
referencedIn Chladek, Edward A. From midshipman to physicist, 1964. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. Mount Wilson Director's papers, 1901-1925. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. Letters. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Zeleny, Anthony, 1870-1947. Autobiography, ca. 1945. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Jesse, William Polk, 1891-1974. Scientific autobiography, 1968. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Cady, Walter G. (Walter Guyton), 1874-1974. Oral history interview with Walter Guyton Cady, 1963 August 28 and 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Knudsen, Vern Oliver, 1893-1974. Oral history interview with Vern Oliver Knudsen, 1964 May 18. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn United States Naval Observatory. Records of the United States Naval Observatory, 1830-1900. Library of Congress
referencedIn Livingston, Dorothy Michelson. Michelson and his beloved aether, [n.d.]. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Hoag, J. Barton, 1898-1962. Oral history interview with J. Barton Hoag, ca. 1965. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Wolcott, Edson Rae, 1877-1966. Autobiography, 1951. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Crew, Henry, 1859-1953. Papers [microform], 1833-1967, (bulk 1880-1940) American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn McFarlan, Ronald Lyman. Oral history interview with Ronald Lyman McFarlan, 1979 December 18. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Letters [microform] : records in the National Archives of the United States. Navy Department Library, Naval History & Heritage Command
referencedIn Severinghaus, Willard L. (Willard Lesly), 1882-1947. Papers, 1895-1947. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Scientists and science collection, 1870-1948. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. Papers, 1882-1938. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). National Academy of Sciences certificate of membership for Charles Atwood Kofoid, 1925 Apr. 26. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Rayleigh, John William Strutt, Baron, 1842-1919. Papers, [microform], 1864-1919. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Born, Max, 1882-1970. Oral history interview with Max Born, 1960 June to 18 October 1962. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Nelson, Donald F. Albert Abraham Michelson, [n.d.]. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn New York University. Hall of Fame. Recorded version of the speeches at the unveiling of the bust of Albert Abraham Michelson for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at New York University, 1973. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn George Sarton additional papers, 1901-1956. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Wadsworth, Frank Lawton Olcott, 1867-1936. Letter and annotated reprints relating to the application of interference methods to astronomical measurements, 1890. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Papers, 1906-1969. University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. [Miscellaneous pamphlets, etc.]. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Millikan, Roger Andrews, 1868-1953. AMsS with TLS, 1929 March 26 : California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. [Articles and papers from scientific periodicals, proceedings, bulletins, etc.]. Navy Department Library, Naval History & Heritage Command
referencedIn Warner & Swasey Company. Engineering drawings for Edward Williams Morley and Albert Abraham Michelson's laboratories at Adelbert College of Western Reserve University. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn American Physical Society. Meeting (1976 : Washington, D.C.). Bicentennial session on the history of pioneering American physicists [sound recording] / 1976 April 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Edward Williams Morley Papers, 1833-1923, (bulk 1863-1899) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. Bohr scientific correspondence, supplement, 1910-1962. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Albert Abraham Michelson facsimile, 1879 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. The Emilio Segrè visual archives, K-O, [ca. 1870]-9999. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Birge, Raymond T. (Raymond Thayer), b. 1887. Comments on A. A. Michelson, 1962. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn McAllister, D. T. A tribute to Albert A. Michelson, 1969. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Loeb, Leonard B. (Leonard Benedict), 1891-. Student notebooks, 1914-1915. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Shankland, Robert S., 1908-. Oral history interview with Robert S. Shankland, 1974 August 20 and 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Jesse, William Polk, 1891-1974. Student notebooks, 1919-1921. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Lenzen, Victor Fritz, 1890-. Letter to Dorothy Michelson Stevens regarding Albert A. Michelson, 1965. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Darrow, Karl K. (Karl Kelchner), 1891-. Oral history interview with Karl K. Darrow, 1964 April 2 and 10 June. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Hutchisson, Elmer, 1902-. Oral history interview with Elmer Hutchisson, 1970 October 22. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. Papers, 1906-1969. Texas Christian University
referencedIn United States Naval Observatory Records, 1830-1900 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Henry Crew (1859-1953) Papers, 1833-1975 Northwestern University Archives
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Papers, 1829-1970. American Institute of Physics
referencedIn Shackelford, Benjamin. Papers, 1913-1915 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn American Astronomical Society. Records, 1897-1988, (bulk 1920-1980). American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Hoag, J. Barton, 1898-1962. Papers, 1914-1963 (1917-1962). American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. Papers. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. [Miscellaneous pamphlets]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. History of physics manuscript biography collection M-R, 1901-1989, [ca. ca. 1960]-1989 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. Velocity of light: notebook, [ca. 1878]. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. (Albert Abraham), 1852-1931. Papers, 1803-1989 ; (bulk: 1861-1965). American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955. Speech : California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., 1931 Jan. 15. Bryn Mawr College, Mariam Coffin Canaday Library
referencedIn Fletcher, Harvey, b. 1884. Oral history interview with Harvey Fletcher, 1964 May 15. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Morley, Edward Williams, 1838-1923. Edward Williams Morley papers, 1833-1923 (bulk 1863-1899). Library of Congress
referencedIn Brasch, Frederick E. (Frederick Edward), 1875-1967,. The Frederick E. Brasch collection of Sir Isaac Newton manuscripts and related materials on the history of scientific thought, 1684-1949. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. Papers, 1894-1930. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Shackelford, Benjamin Estill. Lecture notes, 1913-1915. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. Correspondence of George Ellery Hale, 1887-1937. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Michelson, Albert A. Papers, 1891-1969 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956. person
associatedWith American Astronomical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. Meeting (1976 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bessey, Charles E. (Charles Edwin), 1845-1915. person
associatedWith Birge, Raymond T. (Raymond Thayer), b. 1887. person
associatedWith Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. person
associatedWith Born, Max, 1882-1970. person
associatedWith Bowen, Ira Sprague 1898-1973 person
associatedWith Brasch, Frederick E. (Frederick Edward), 1875-1967, person
associatedWith Cady, Walter G. (Walter Guyton), 1874-1974. person
associatedWith Carhart, Henry S. (Henry Smith), 1844-1920. person
associatedWith Carnegie Institution of Washington. corporateBody
associatedWith Case Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith Case Western Reserve University. corporateBody
associatedWith Chladek, Edward A. person
associatedWith Clark University (Worcester, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962. person
associatedWith Compton, Betty Charity McCloskey, 1916- person
associatedWith Crew, Henry, 1859-1953. person
associatedWith Darrow, Karl K. (Karl Kelchner), 1891- person
associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955. person
associatedWith Fletcher, Harvey, b. 1884. person
associatedWith Gale, Henry Gordon, 1874-1942. person
associatedWith Gingrich, Newell Shiffer, 1906- person
associatedWith Hale, George Ellery, 1868-1938. person
associatedWith Hoag, J. Barton, 1898-1962. person
associatedWith Hutchisson, Elmer, 1902- person
associatedWith Jesse, William Polk, 1891-1974. person
associatedWith Knudsen, Vern Oliver, 1893-1974. person
associatedWith Lenzen, Victor Fritz, 1890- person
associatedWith Lick Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Livingston, Dorothy Michelson. person
associatedWith Loeb, Leonard B. (Leonard Benedict), 1891- person
associatedWith McAllister, D. T. person
associatedWith McFarlan, Ronald Lyman. person
associatedWith Michelson Museum (Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. person
associatedWith Millikan, Roger Andrews, 1868-1953. person
correspondedWith Morley, Edward Williams, 1838-1923. person
associatedWith Mount Wilson Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena, California corporateBody
associatedWith National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Archives (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Bureau of Standards (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nelson, Donald F. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon, 1835-1909. person
associatedWith New York University. Hall of Fame. corporateBody
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith O’Donnell, Thomas J. person
associatedWith Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967. person
associatedWith Rayleigh, John William Strutt, Baron, 1842-1919. person
associatedWith Rowland, Henry Augustus, 1848-1901. person
correspondedWith Sarton, George, 1884-1956 person
associatedWith Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. person
associatedWith Severinghaus, Willard L. (Willard Lesly), 1882-1947. person
associatedWith Shackelford, Benjamin Estill. person
associatedWith Shankland, Robert S., 1908- person
associatedWith Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. person
associatedWith United States. National Bureau of Standards. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Naval Academy. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland corporateBody
associatedWith United States Naval Observatory. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago corporateBody
associatedWith Wadsworth, Frank Lawton Olcott, 1867-1936. person
associatedWith Warner & Swasey Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Wolcott, Edson Rae, 1877-1966. person
associatedWith Zeleny, Anthony, 1870-1947. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Illinois--Chicago
Subject
Interferometers--Technological innovations
Animals--Color--Research
Gravity--Measurement
Special relativity (Physics)--History
Waves (Physics)--Diffraction--Research
Light--Speed--Research
Birds--Color--Research
Science
Physicists--Biography
Earth tides--Research
Spectrum analysis
Light--Speed
Velocity of light
Insects--Color--Research
Viscoelasticity
Gravity--Measurement--Instruments
Light
Diffraction gratings
Vacuum technology--Experiments
Measuring instruments (Physical instruments)--Technological innovations
Waves--Diffraction--Research
Light--Speed--Measurement
Interferometers--Experiments
Optical instruments--Technological innovations
Light--Speed--Measurement--Standards
Ether
Stars
Physics--Experiments
Astronomical observatories
Physics--Research
Stars--Measurement
Occupation
Physicists
Function

Person

Birth 1852-12-19

Death 1931-05-09

Americans

English

Information

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