Slater, John Rothwell, 1872-Alternative names
Naturally inclined to interdisciplinarity, John Clarke Slater was an important proponent of quantum theory, a pioneer in the electromagnetic theory of microwaves, an early materials scientist, and a significant player in the 20th century development of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Raised in an academic family in Rochester, NY, Slater had earned degrees in physics at Rochester (AB 1920) and Harvard (PhD 1923) before the age of 24. After receiving his doctorate, he entered into one of the most productive periods of his research career, studying as a Sheldon Fellow at Cambridge and Copenhagen, the latter under Niels Bohr, during which time he whetted his appetite for quantum theory while working on the quantum mechanics of the chemical bond. At this early point in his career, Slater developed what would become his personal approach to physics using quantum theory to integrate the theoretical and practical applications in the study of atoms, molecules, and solids.
After his return from Europe, Slater spent a few years in contented academic vagabondage, employed as an instructor at Harvard, but spending time at Stanford (summer, 1926) and Chicago (1928), until once again earning passage to Europe. As a Guggenheim fellow, he continued his studies in quantum theory under Werner Heisenberg until receiving the call to MIT. In 1930, the newly appointed president of MIT, Karl T. Compton, hired Slater to head the Department of Physics, and over the next decade, the two together helped to assemble a department of international repute. Identifying key areas of interests in physics and luring such talented persons to the university as George Harrison in spectroscopy, Robley Evans in radioactivity, and Robert J. van de Graaf in nuclear physics, Slater helped to guide a remarkable expansion of the department during the height of the Great Depression. During this period, his own research into the electromagnetic theory of microwaves, conducted with colleagues Julius Stratton and Nathaniel Frank, helped establish the theoretical basis for the development of radar. During the Second World War, Slater worked at the famed radiation laboratory at MIT, developing improvements in radar and the magnetron.
Slater served as chair of the Department of Physics until 1952, when he was appointed MIT's first Institute Professor and Harry B. Higgins chair, allowing him even greater latitude in pressing his interdisciplinary agenda. After a year spent at Brookhaven Laboratories, he returned to MIT to help establish the renowned group in solid state and molecular theory and the interdisciplinary Center for Materials Science and Engineering, the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. The new perspectives on materials science emanating from these groups was instrumental in the development of the transistor, in part through the doctoral work of one of Slater's best known students, William Shockley.
After Slater retired from MIT in 1966, he was hired by the University of Florida as Graduate Research Professor of Physics and Chemistry, remaining active at both institutions until his death in 1976. Slater's voluminous publications include several key works in shaping the several fields in which worked, including Chemical Physics (1939), Microwave Electronics (1950), Quantum Theory of Matter (1951), Quantum Theory of Atomic Structure (1960) and Quantum Theory of Molecules and Solids (1963-1966). Among his students were two Nobel laureates, Richard Feynmann and William Shockley.
From the guide to the John Clarke Slater Papers, 1908-1976, (American Philosophical Society)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Mysticism and literature|
|University of Florida. Department of Physics|
|Physics--Study and teaching--20th century|