Margenau, Henry, 1901-1997

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Dr. Henry Margenau, Yale professor and eminent philosopher of science, was born in Germany in 1901 and came to the United States in 1922. He earned his A.B. from Midland Lutheran College and a M.Sc. from the University of Nebraska. He attended Yale University on a graduate fellowship in 1927, and received his Ph.D. in 1929. He remained at Yale as an instructor and later as a professor. In 1950 Margenau was made the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and Natural Philosophy, the first such joint appointment ever made by the University. Margenau retired emeritus in 1969, but maintained his connection to Yale and the academic community. His interests in physics grew from a technical expertise in the Zeeman Effect and the measurement of spectral lines, to a broad appreciation of the implications of science for human life and society. In addition to being a consultant for private industry and government laboratories, Margenau was a prodigious author of articles and books, and editor of several journals.

From the description of Henry Margenau papers, 1927-1990 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702165925

Dr. Henry Margenau, Yale professor and eminent philosopher of science, was born in Germany in 1901 and came to the United States in 1922. He earned his A.B. from Midland Lutheran College and a M.Sc. from the University of Nebraska. He attended Yale University on a graduate fellowship in 1927, and received his Ph.D. in 1929. He remained at Yale as an instructor and later as a professor. In 1950 Margenau was made the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and Natural Philosophy, the first such joint appointment ever made by the University. Margenau retired emeritus in 1969, but maintained his connection to Yale and the academic community. His interests in physics grew from a technical expertise in the Zeeman Effect and the measurement of spectral lines, to a broad appreciation of the implications of science for human life and society. In addition to being a consultant for private industry and government laboratories, Margenau was a prodigious author of articles and books, and editor of several journals.

Henry Margenau was born on April 30, 1901 in Bielefeld, Germany. Largely self-taught and ambitious, Margenau was trained to be an elementary school teacher. In 1922, however, he emigrated from Germany, settled in Nebraska with a distant relative, and worked as a farm hand. He attended Midland Lutheran College from 1923 to 1924, majored in Latin, and completed his degree in one year. He came to physics quite by accident, when he accepted an assistantship to Dr. Moore, a research physicist at the University of Nebraska, in the summer of 1924. In addition to assisting Dr. Moore, Margenau took courses in physics and mathematics, and in the fall of 1925, began taking graduate level courses. By the spring of 1926, he had a master of science degree in physics. His benefactor and mentor died, but Margenau was retained by the university to continue doing research and to work as an instructor.

Margenau's master's thesis on the Zeeman Effect was published, and he was offered a fellowship from the Yale University physics department in 1927. After two years at Yale, Margenau had completed his Ph.D. in physics. He then went to study quantum theory in Europe on a Sterling Fellowship and returned to Yale in the fall of 1931, with the promise of an assistant professorship after an additional year as an instructor. He was assistant professor of physics from 1931 to 1939, at which time he was made an associate professor.

During World War II, Margenau stayed at Yale and continued to teach. With the arrival, in 1941, of Ernst Cassirer, a prominent philosopher and physicist, Margenau's interests shifted to philosophy. Cassirer and Margenau co-taught a graduate course on Kant and Neo-Kantianism, and in 1944 collaborated on an English edition of Determinismus and Indeterminismus in Der Modern Physik . Unfortunately, Cassirer died before the completion of the project, and Margenau did not continue the work in his absence. Rather than augment and amplify the text as had been planned, Margenau left it as it was, and added a preface over his name as well as a new bibliography. The book was eventually published in 1956.

In 1945 Margenau was promoted to full professor and, in 1950, he received the first joint appointment in physics and philosophy to be offered by Yale, the Eugene Higgins Professorship of Physics and Natural Philosophy. Margenau retired Emeritus from Yale in 1969, but continued to research and write about physical phenomena as well as philosophy and ethics. In the 1960s he developed a considerable interest in the problems of parapsychology, psychical research, and the physical reality of consciousness. Einstein's Space and Van Gogh's Sky (1982), for example, a book Margenau wrote with psychologist Lawrence LeShan, is an exploration of psychic phenomena and perception.

Though Margenau was affiliated with Yale from the 1920s onward, his reputation and professional activities took him all over the world and to many institutions. In 1939 he received a fellowship from the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, where he worked with Eugene Wigner and Archibald Wheeler. He was visiting professor at the University of California in 1947, and at the University of Heidelberg in 1953 and 1971. He was at Carleton College in 1953-1954, and at the University of Tokyo under the auspices of a Fulbright Lectureship in 1960. He taught at Whitman College in 1971-1972, and was a Hadley Fellow at Bennington College in 1975. He was a Joseph Henry Lecturer in 1954, and a National Phi Beta Kappa lecturer in 1965. Margenau's professional memberships included the American Physics Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences in Brussels. He was president of the Philosophy of Science Association and the New England section of the American Physics Society. Margenau served as vice president of the Connecticut Academy of Science and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.

Henry Margenau has been referred to as the most important philosopher of physics of his generation and one of the most eminent philosophers of science in the twentieth century. He was the recipient of a number of honors and awards, including the San Marcos University Medal in 1951, the Century Award from Michigan State University in 1955, and the Devane Medal in 1969. He was in great demand as a consultant and worked in that capacity for MIT's Radiation Laboratory, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Bureau of Standards, Argonne National Laboratories, General Electric, and the Lockheed Corporation. The latter, for example, had been assigned by the Air Force to study the physical processes taking place in the fireball created by exploding the first hydrogen bomb. Margenau's early work on spectral line measurement led Lockheed to seek his expertise; measuring the spectral lines produced by the bomb's explosion was the key to discerning the bomb's internal heat, and necessary for the success of the project.

Margenau was a prolific author. His books include: Physics: Principles and Applications (1949), The Nature of Concepts (1950), Open Vistas (1961), Ethics and Science (1964), Scientific Indeterminism and Human Freedom (1968), The Scientist (1965), Integrative Principles of Modern Thought (1972), and The Miracle of Existence (1984). He coauthored Foundations of Physics (1936), with R. Bruce Lindsay; The Mathematics of Physics and Chemistry (1943), with George Murphy; Theory of Intermolecular Forces (1969, 1971), with N. Kestner; and co-edited Cosmos, Bios, Theos (1992), with Roy Abraham Varghese. Margenau also published numerous physics and philosophical articles, and served as editor of such journals as Foundations of Physics, Main Currents in Modern Thought, Journal of the Philosophy of Science, American Journal of Science, Reviews of Modern Physics, Journal of Chemistry and Physics, Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer . He was consulting editor for the Time Life Science Series .

Henry Margenau became a citizen of the United States in 1930, and married Louise M. Noe in 1932. They have three children: Rolf Carl, Annemarie Luise, and Henry Frederick.

From the guide to the Henry Margenau papers, 1927-1990, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hare, Michael Meredith, 1909-1968. Michael Meredith Hare papers, 1935-1968 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Margenau, Henry, 1901-. Henry Margenau papers, 1927-1990 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Parapsychology Laboratory. Records, 1893-1984 (bulk 1930-1965). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn John Archibald Wheeler Papers, 1880-2008, 1880-2008 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Parapsychology Laboratory. Records, 1893-1984 and n.d. (bulk 1930-1965). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Henry Margenau papers, 1927-1990 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Syz, Hans C. Hans Caspar Syz papers, 1911-1991 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Yourgrau, Wolfgang. Wolfgang Yourgrau papers, 1942-1979. University of Denver, University Libraries, Anderson Academic Commons
referencedIn Wolfgang Yourgrau papers, 1942-1979 Special Collections and Archives, Penrose Library, University of Denver, 2150 E. Evans Ave., Denver, CO 80208
referencedIn Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, 1898-1950 (bulk), 1898-1950 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Hans Caspar Syz papers, 1911-1991 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Libby, Willard F. Oral history interview with Willard Frank Libby, 1979 April 12 and 16. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Michael Meredith Hare papers, 1935-1968 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Lindsay, Robert Bruce, 1900-. Oral history interview with Robert Bruce Lindsay. 1964 May 6 and July 9. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Margenau, Henry, 1901-1997. Oral history interview with Henry Margenau, 1964 May 6. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Bethe, Hans A. (Hans Albrecht), 1906-2005. Gregory Breit Symposium [sound recording] / 1968 May 3. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abraham, Max, 1875-1922 person
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associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
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associatedWith American Physical Society and American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Andrade, E. N. da C., (Edward Neville da Costa), 1887-1971 person
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associatedWith Becquerel, Jean, 1878-1953 person
associatedWith Benedicks, Carl Axel Fredrik, 1875-1953 person
associatedWith Berliner, Arnold, 1862-1942 person
associatedWith Bethe, Hans A. (Hans Albrecht), 1906-2005. person
associatedWith Birge, Raymond T., (Raymond Thayer), 1887-1980 person
associatedWith Bohr, Niels Henrik David, 1885-1962 person
associatedWith Born, Max, 1882-1970. person
associatedWith Brattain, Walter H. (Walter Houser), 1902-1987. person
associatedWith Breit, Gregory, 1899-1981 person
associatedWith Bridgman, P. W. (Percy Williams), 1882-1961. person
associatedWith Broglie, Louis de, 1892-1987 person
associatedWith Cockcroft, John, Sir, 1897-1967 person
associatedWith Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962 person
associatedWith Coster, Dirk, 1889-1950 person
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associatedWith Debye, Peter J. W., (Peter Josef William), 1884-1966 person
associatedWith Dieke, Gerhard Heinrich, 1901-1965 person
associatedWith Dirac, P. A. M., (Paul Adrien Maurice), 1902-1984 person
associatedWith Eccles, John C. (John Carew), Sir, 1903- person
associatedWith Eddington, Arthur Stanley, Sir, 1882-1944 person
associatedWith Ehrenfest, Paul, 1880-1933 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955. person
associatedWith Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954 person
associatedWith Fokker, A. D., (Adriaan Daniel), 1887-1972 person
associatedWith Fowler, A., (Alfred), 1868-1940 person
associatedWith Franck, James, 1882-1964 person
associatedWith Gerlach, Walther, 1889-1979 person
associatedWith Goudsmit, Samuel Abraham, 1902-1978 person
associatedWith Haber, Fritz, 1868-1934 person
associatedWith Hare, Michael, 1909-1968 person
associatedWith Hare, Michael Meredith, 1909-1968. person
associatedWith Heisenberg, Werner, 1901-1976 person
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associatedWith Joliot-Curie, Frédéric person
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associatedWith Kemble, Edwin C., (Edwin Crawford), 1889-1984 person
associatedWith King, W. James, person
associatedWith Klein, Oskar, 1894-1977 person
associatedWith Kramers, Hendrik Anthony, 1894-1952 person
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associatedWith Langevin, Paul, 1872-1946 person
associatedWith Laue, Max von, 1879-1960 person
associatedWith Libby, Willard F. person
associatedWith Lindsay, Robert Bruce, 1900- person
associatedWith London, Fritz, 1900-1954. person
associatedWith McLennan, J. C., (John Cunningham), 1867-1935 person
associatedWith Meitner, Lise, 1878-1968 person
associatedWith Mie, Gustav, 1868-1957 person
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953 person
associatedWith Mulliken, Robert Sanderson, 1896-1986 person
associatedWith Nishina, Yoshio, 1890-1951 person
associatedWith Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967 person
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associatedWith Parapsychology Laboratory. corporateBody
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associatedWith Rosenfeld, L., (Leon), 1904-1974 person
associatedWith Rosseland, Svein, 1894-1985 person
associatedWith Rubens, Heinrich, 1865-1922 person
associatedWith Runge, Carl, 1856-1927 person
associatedWith Rutherford, Ernest, 1871-1937 person
associatedWith Scheel, Karl, 1866-1936 person
associatedWith Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961. person
associatedWith Sommerfeld, Arnold, 1868-1951. person
associatedWith Stark, Johannes, 1874-1957 person
associatedWith Syz, Hans C. person
associatedWith Syz, Hans C. person
associatedWith Thomson, J. J., Sir, (Joseph John), 1856-1940 person
associatedWith Uhlenbeck, George Eugène, 1900-1988 person
associatedWith United States. Office of Naval Research. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Nebraska -- Lincoln. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Vleck, J. H., (John Hasbrouck), 1899-1980 person
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associatedWith Von Neumann, John, 1903-1957 person
associatedWith Warburg, Emil Gabriel, 1846-1931 person
associatedWith Weisskopf, Victor Frederick, 1908-2002 person
associatedWith Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008. person
associatedWith Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995. person
associatedWith Yale University. corporateBody
associatedWith Yourgrau, Wolfgang. person
associatedWith Zeeman, Pieter, 1865-1943 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Solid state physics
Quantum theory
Metallurgy
Physics
Science--Methodology
Plasma (Ionized gases)
Spectral line broadening
Nuclear physics
Van der Waals forces
Philosophy
Physics--Philosophy
Occupation
Physicists
Philosophers
Function

Person

Birth 1901

Death 1997-02-08

English,

German

Information

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