Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973

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Professor of nuclear physics, California Institute of Technology, 1941-1973.

From the description of Papers, 1922-1974, (bulk: 1952-1973) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78006848


Thomas Lauritsen--or Tommy, as he was always called--was the son of Charles Christian Lauritsen, one of Caltech's most prominent nuclear physicists. Tommy Lauritsen's forty-one year association with Caltech began in 1932 when he entered the Institute to pursue his undergraduate degree. Following the award of his PhD in 1939, he left Caltech for postdoctoral study at what is now the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. He returned to Caltech in 1941 and was appointed to the physics faculty in 1946. He served Caltech continuously until his untimely death from cancer at the age of fifty-seven in October, 1973.

Aside from the war period, during which he was closely involved in the Caltech rocket project for the U.S. Navy, Lauritsen's research activity was directed principally to experimental investigations of the structure of atomic nuclei, with particular emphasis on the nuclides in the first row of the periodic table, the light nuclei. Beginning in 1948, in collaboration with Fay Ajzenberg-Selove, Lauritsen authored fourteen review papers which summarized current knowledge about the light nuclei. He was much admired as a teacher of physics at Caltech and co-authored with Richtmyer and Kennard the textbook Introduction to Modern Physics (5th ed., 1955).

In the last years of his career Lauritsen served the whole nuclear physics community. He played a major role in writing the report of the Weneser Panel of the Physics Survey Committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The Weneser report provided the first reliable and detailed information on the level of funding, facilities, and trained workers in nuclear physics in the United States. During the last two years of his life he was elected and served as Chairman of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society, a fitting honor to one who had worked to found the division.

From the guide to the Thomas Lauritsen papers, 1922-1974, (California Institute of Technology. Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. Oral history interview with Thomas Lauritsen, 1967 February 16. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Thomas Lauritsen papers, 1922-1974 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
creatorOf Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. Papers, 1922-1974, (bulk: 1952-1973) American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn American Physical Society. Meeting (1974: Washington, D.C.). Symposium of the Division of Nuclear Physics [sound recording] : Thomas Lauritsen Memorial Session / 1974 April 24. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Salpeter, Edwin E. Oral history interview with Edwin Ernest Salpeter, 1978 March 30. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. Bohr scientific correspondence, supplement, 1910-1962. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. Manuscripts, other authors, 1910-1961. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973. Oral history interview with Ira Sprague Bowen, 1968 August 9 and 26 August 1969. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Ajzenberg-Selove, Fay, 1926- person
associatedWith Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. person
associatedWith American Physical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. Meeting (1974: Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bethe, Hans A. (Hans Albrecht), 1906-2005. person
associatedWith Bohr, Aage. person
associatedWith Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. person
associatedWith Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973. person
associatedWith California Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith Fowler, William A. person
associatedWith Frisch, Otto Robert, 1904- person
associatedWith Kerst, Donald William, 1911-1993. person
associatedWith Lauritsen, Charles Christian, 1892-1968. person
associatedWith Livingston, M. Stanley (Milton Stanley) person
associatedWith Los Alamos National Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. person
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. person
associatedWith National Science Foundation (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Niels Bohr institutet. corporateBody
associatedWith Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967. person
associatedWith Richman, Barry, person
associatedWith Salpeter, Edwin E. person
associatedWith United States. National Bureau of Standards. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy. corporateBody
associatedWith Universitetets Institut for Teoretisk Fysik (Copenhagen) corporateBody
associatedWith University of Wisconsin. corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Weiner, Charles. person
associatedWith Weisskopf, Victor Frederick, 1908-2002. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Nuclear physics--Congresses
Gamma rays--Measurement
Nuclear shell theory
Particle accelerators
Federal aid to research
Nuclear physics--Research
Nuclear spin
Nuclear physics--Study and teaching
World War, 1939-1945--War work--United States
Cloud chamber
Nuclear fission
Nuclear physics


Birth 1915

Death 1973



Ark ID: w6qj7mm1

SNAC ID: 44041371