Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978

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Professor of physics, dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, director of the Phoenix Project, and Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan, scientist and administrator for the U.S. Navy during World War II, technical director of atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, officer of the American Institute of Physics and Optical Society of America.

From the description of Ralph A. Sawyer papers, 1918-1978. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 154302275

Physicist (spectroscopy, ordnance). On the physics faculty of University of Michigan, 1919-1965; dean Horace B. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 1946-1965; director, Phoenix Project, 1951-1959. He died in 1978.

From the description of Student notes, 1916-1917. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79359134

Ralph Alanson Sawyer (1895-1978). Physicist (spectroscopy, ordnance). On the faculty of University of Michigan (1919-1965); dean Horace B. Rackham School of Graduate Studies (1946-1965); director, Phoenix Project (1951-1959).

From the description of Oral history interview with Ralph Alanson Sawyer, 1967 March 16 and 1970 September 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81360279

Sawyer died in 1978.

From the description of Intellectual autobiography, ca. 1960. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78695934

Ralph A. Sawyer was a University of Michigan physicist, distinguished for his research in spectroscopy, radiometry, and various forms of spectrographic analysis, and later in atomic energy research. While at the University of Michigan, and in different administrative positions, Sawyer was responsible for the growth of the University's research program in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sawyer was born in 1895 in Atkinson, New Hampshire. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1915, Sawyer enrolled at the University of Chicago, becoming an assistant in physics in 1917. In 1918 he entered the Navy and designed optical instruments for the Bureau of Ordnance. After leaving the Navy in 1919, he received is Ph.D. degree from Chicago and joined the physics department of the University of Michigan. Sawyer rose to the rank of full professor by 1930. During his career he became a specialist in the fields of spectroscopy, radiometry, extreme ultraviolet spectra, series analysis of line spectra, hyperfind structure of spectral lines and quantitative spectrographic analysis.

During World War II, Sawyer was on leave to serve in the United States Naval Reserve. He was first commissioned as a lieutenant commander and placed in charge of experimental laboratories of the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia. In 1943, he was promoted to commander, assuming charge of the testing and research laboratory.

When released from the Navy in 1945, Sawyer was appointed head of the ordnance division of the naval ordnance test station at Iyokern, California. In April 1946, he became civilian technical director of the Bikini atom bomb tests (known as known as Joint Task Force One) where he supervised and co-ordinated the activities of more than 500 scientists.

Following the tests, also in 1946, Sawyer was chosen dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate School of the University of Michigan where he served until 1964. He also served the university as director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project established to explore the peaceful uses of atomic energy from 1951-1959. And in 1959, he was appointed to be university vice president for research.

During this period Sawyer also served as chairman of the governing board and acting director of the American Institute of Physics and president of the Optical Society of America, as well as a member of many boards and panels of both civilian and military research groups. After his retirement from the university in 1964, Sawyer continued to work as a consultant. Sawyer died in 1978.

From the guide to the Ralph A. Sawyer Papers, 1918-1978, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Marston Bates Papers, 1913-1974 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf University of Michigan. English Language Institute. English Language Institute (University of Michigan) records, 1940-2004. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. The Emilio Segrè visual archives, P-S, [ca. 1870]-9999. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Seminar for science writers on quasars [sound recording] / 1965 January 26. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. History of physics audio-visual collection, circa 1918-1996, 1960-1988 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn University of Michigan Faculty and Staff Portraits, ca. 1860-ca. 1960 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1962 : Harriman, N.Y.). Sessions from 5th annual meeting of Corporate Associates [sound recording] / 1962 September. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Student notes, 1916-1917. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn American Institute of Physics. Office of the Director. Records of Van Zandt Williams and Ralph Sawyer, 1964-1966. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project. Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project records, 1947-ongoing. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project records, 1947-2003 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Alumni Association (University of Michigan), Individual Photographs, ca. 1880-ca. 1960s Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn University of Michigan. News and Information Services. Faculty and Staff Files, 1944-2005 (bulk 1960-1995) Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Oral history interview with Ralph Alanson Sawyer, 1967 March 16 and 1970 September 24. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies (University of Michigan) records, 1892-2010. Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. History of physics manuscript biography collection S-Z, 1901-1989, [ca. ca. 1960]-1989 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Smith, Gail Preston, 1915-. Autobiography, ca. 1965. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Ralph A. Sawyer Papers, 1918-1978 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn English Language Institute (University of Michigan), records, 1940-2004 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1960 : Harriman, N.Y.). Science and engineering in a free society [sound recording] : A panel discussion presenting three points of view, 1960 September 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Ralph A. Sawyer papers, 1918-1978. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies (University of Michigan) records, 1892-[ongoing]. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1971 : New York, N.Y.). Sessions of the annual meeting of Corporate Associates [sound recording] / 1971 September 23. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf University of Michigan. Division of Research Development and Administration. Division of Research Development and Administration (University of Michigan) records, 1919-1988. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Hatcher, Harlan, 1898-1998. Harlan Henthorne Hatcher papers, 1837-1998 (bulk 1891-1986). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Dennison, David M. (David Mathias), 1900-1976. Informal moments, Summer Symposia at the University of Michigan [motion picture] / taken by David Dennison ; 1933-1937. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Oral history interview with Ralph Alanson Sawyer, 1967 March 16 and 1970 September 24. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bacher, Robert F. (Robert Fox), 1905-. Oral History interview with Robert F. Bacher, 1966 June 30. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Sawyer, Ralph A. (Ralph Alanson), 1895-1978. Intellectual autobiography, ca. 1960. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Harlan Henthorne Hatcher Papers, 1837-1998, 1891-1986 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf University of Michigan. English Language Institute. English Language Institute (University of Michigan) records, 1940-1982. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Division of Research Development and Administration (University of Michigan) records, 1919-1996 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Randall, Harrison M. (Harrison McAllister), b. 1870. Oral history interview with Harrison M. Randall, 1964 February 19 and 1965 June 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith Brode, Robert B., 1900- person
associatedWith Brode, Wallace R. (Wallace Reed), 1900-1974. person
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associatedWith Dow, William G. (William Gould), 1895-1999. person
associatedWith Fajans, Kasimir, 1887-1975. person
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associatedWith Griffin, Clare E. (Clare Elmer), 1892- person
associatedWith Haber, William, 1899-1988. person
associatedWith Hansen, Gerhard. person
associatedWith Hansen, Gerhard. person
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associatedWith Hatcher, Harlan, 1898-1998. person
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associatedWith Meader, George, 1907- person
associatedWith Michelson, Albert Abraham, 1852-1931. person
associatedWith Michigan Historical Collections corporateBody
associatedWith Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. person
associatedWith National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Optical Society of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Paschen, F. person
associatedWith Paschen, F. person
associatedWith Penney, William George, Sir, 1909- person
associatedWith Price, Derek J. de Solla (Derek John de Solla), 1922-1983. person
associatedWith Randall, Harrison M. (Harrison McAllister), b. 1870. person
associatedWith Ruthven, Alexander Grant, 1882-1971. person
associatedWith Sawyer, Ralph Alanson, 1895-1978. person
associatedWith Seitz, Frederick, 1911-2008. person
associatedWith Smith, Gail Preston, 1915- person
associatedWith Snow, C. P. (Charles Percy), 1905- person
associatedWith Snow, C. P. (Charles Percy), 1905-1980. person
associatedWith Stratton, Thomas F. person
associatedWith Stratton, Thomas F. person
associatedWith Struve, Otto, 1897-1963. person
associatedWith Taylor, William Randolph, 1895- person
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associatedWith United States. Navy. corporateBody
associatedWith Universität Berlin. corporateBody
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associatedWith University of Michigan. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Alumni Association. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Dept. of Physics. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Dept. of Physics. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Division of Research Development and Administration. corporateBody
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associatedWith University of Michigan. English Language Institute. corporateBody
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associatedWith University of Michigan. Vice-President for Research. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan. Vice-President for Research. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Vleck, J. H. (John Hasbrouck), 1899- person
associatedWith Varney, Robert Nathan, 1910- person
associatedWith Vivian, Weston Edward, 1924- person
associatedWith Weiner, Charles. person
associatedWith White, Albert Easton, 1884-1956. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Germany (West)
Germany
Germany
Brazil
Brazil.
China
Michigan--Ann Arbor
Bikini Atoll (Marshall Islands)
China
Germany.
Subject
Light
Physics--Study and teaching (Graduate)
Ordnance testing
Physics--Industrial applications
Physicists
Nuclear weapons
Physicists--Intellectual life
World War, 1939-1945--Science
World War, 1939-1945
Physical optics
Physical laboratories
Naval research
Atomic bomb
Spectrum analysis
Optics
Atomic spectra
Physics
Physics--Societies, etc
World War, 1914-1918--Science
Physicists--Michigan--Ann Arbor
Wave-motion, Theory of
Mechanics
Electromagnetic theory
Physicists--Biography
Explosions
Scientific equipment
Occupation
Physicists
Activity

Person

Birth 1895-01-05

Death 1978-12-06

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