Moffitt, George Wilbur.

Name Entries



Name Entries *

Moffitt, George Wilbur.

Computed Name Heading

Name Components

Name :

Moffitt, George Wilbur.


Exist Dates

Biographical History

George Wilbur Moffitt was a physicist active in the first half of the twentieth century; his career was chiefly centered upon the design of lenses, lens systems, and optical instruments.

Moffitt was born to Joab and Stella Moffitt, a prosperous farm couple of Pleasantville, Iowa, in 1887. After attending rural schools, he enrolled in 1906 at the State University of Iowa, majoring in mathematics and minoring in physics. In 1910, he received a bachelor of arts degree and enrolled in the physics department of Stanford University, where he held a teaching assistantship, and from which institution he received a Ph.D. in physics in 1913. From 1913 to 1917 Moffitt taught undergraduates in the physics department at Washington University (St. Louis), from which he was separated rather bitterly. For the next four years Moffitt served as a research physicist at the Kodak Lab in Rochester, working on photographic lenses, military work, and a home projection lens, as well as other work. From 1922 to 1926 Moffitt was civilian head of the optical laboratory of the Frankfort Arsenal in Philadelphia, where he concentrated upon design and criticism of optical instruments to control weapons fire.

In the latter year Moffitt was appointed to the rank of research associate (with precedence of assistant professors) at the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago at Williams Bay, Wisconsin. There he had few teaching responsibilities, but a heavy program of observation in stellar parallax and other less significant projects. During this period he designed the chief auxiliary instruments of the McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas, including the spectrograph camera; and he also consulted with a number of other clients. In 1937 Moffitt's appointment was terminated, in part due to the fact that the Observatory's parallax program ended, and in part due to the fact that Moffitt was judged not to have published enough. (He had published 17 scholarly articles prior to his appointment at Yerkes, and ten more during his eleven years there, primarily in optics and astronomy; for a dated list, see APPENDIX).

Upon leaving Yerkes, Moffitt entered into an uneasy partnership with the proprietors of a New York optical firm, as Perkins, Elmer, and Moffitt. Perkins and Elmer controlled the capital of the partnership and directed the manufacturing aspect of the firm; Moffitt provided technical advice to the firm and design consultation to the clients of the firm, receiving a guaranteed drawing account in lieu of salary. During this period Moffitt designed a hunting scope, a spotting scope, and other instruments, in addition to work done for outside clients. In 1940, Perkins and Elmer dissolved the partnership and incorporated without Moffitt's consent or participation. This action precipitated a long and bitter suit by Moffitt for a share of the capital gains and goodwill of the partnership, which failed.

Thereafter, Moffitt established himself as an independent consultant, operating from his Ridgewood, New Jersey, home. During the next decade and a half he had a successful practice, providing advice and designs for camera manufacturers, optical companies, war contractors, and other firms. In the period from 1955 to 1956, Moffitt served as a vice-president of the Smith-Dietrich firm, for whom he helped design the lens system for their multi-image "Cinemiracle" movie technique. In his later years, Moffitt gradually reduced his consulting, working on his clients' projects only a few hours a week, as his diaries testify. He died in 1965, survived by his wife of 23 years, Ada Rogers Moffitt.

From the guide to the Moffitt, George Wilbur. Papers, 1908-1965, (Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)



External Related CPF

Other Entity IDs (Same As)


Loading ...

Resource Relations

Loading ...

Internal CPF Relations

Loading ...

Languages Used





Legal Statuses


Convention Declarations

General Contexts

Structure or Genealogies


Identity Constellation Identifier(s)