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John Hasbrouck van Vleck

John Hasbrouck van Vleck

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John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (March 13, 1899 – October 27, 1980) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 physicist
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 and mathematician
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, co-awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

, for his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s in magnetic solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

s.

Life and work


Born in Middletown, Connecticut
Middletown, Connecticut
Middletown is a city located in Middlesex County, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River, in the central part of the state, 16 miles south of Hartford. In 1650, it was incorporated as a town under its original Indian name, Mattabeseck. It received its present name in 1653. In 1784, the central...

 the son of mathematician Edward Burr Van Vleck
Edward Burr Van Vleck
Edward Burr Van Vleck was an American mathematician.The son of astronomer John Monroe Van Vleck, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1884, attended Johns Hopkins in 1885-87, and studied at Göttingen...

 and grandson of astronomer John Monroe Van Vleck
John Monroe Van Vleck
John Monroe Van Vleck was an American mathematician and astronomer.He taught astronomy and mathematics at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for more than 50 years , and served as acting university president twice...

, he grew up in Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. It is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison....

, received A.B.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

 from the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

 in 1920. Then he went to Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 for graduate studies and earned a Ph.D degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

 in 1922. He joined the University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. It is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system and has the fourth-largest main campus student body in the United States, with 52,557...

 as an assistant professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 in 1923, then moved to the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

 before settling at Harvard. He also earned Honorary
Honorary degree
An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations...

 D. Sc.
, or D. Honoris Causa, degree from Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college founded in 1831 and located in Middletown, Connecticut. According to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Wesleyan is the only Baccalaureate College in the nation that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and...

 in 1936.
Autobiography, John H. van Vleck, The Nobel Prize in Physics 1977

J. H. van Vleck established the fundamentals of the quantum mechanical theory of magnetism
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

 and the crystal field theory
Crystal field theory
Crystal field theory is a model that describes the electronic structure of transition metal compounds, all of which can be considered coordination complexes. CFT successfully accounts for some magnetic properties, colours, hydration enthalpies, and spinel structures of transition metal complexes,...

 (chemical bonding in metal complexes
Complex (chemistry)
In chemistry, a coordination complex or metal complex, is an atom or ion , bonded to a surrounding array of molecules or anions, that are in turn known as ligands or complexing agents...

). He is regarded as the Father of Modern Magnetism
Magnetism
Magnetism is a property of materials that respond at an atomic or subatomic level to an applied magnetic field. Ferromagnetism is the strongest and most familiar type of magnetism. It is responsible for the behavior of permanent magnets, which produce their own persistent magnetic fields, as well...

.
John H. van Vleck, International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science
On the verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the correspondence principle. Part One., Anthony Duncan, Michel Janssen; Elsevier Science, 8 May 2007
On the verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the correspondence principle. Part Two., Anthony Duncan, Michel Janssen; Elsevier Science, 8 May 2007

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, J. H. van Vleck worked on radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 at the MIT Radiation Lab. He was half time at the Radiation Lab and half time on the staff at Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. He showed that at about 1.25-centimeter wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 water molecules in the atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

 would lead to troublesome absorption
Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed to other forms of energy for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is...

 and that at 0.5-centimeter wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 there would be a similar absorption
Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed to other forms of energy for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is...

 by oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 molecules.
Norman F. Ramsey Oral History (1991), NORMAN F. RAMSEY
Norman Foster Ramsey, Jr.
Norman Foster Ramsey, Jr. was an American physicist. A physics professor at Harvard University since 1947, Ramsey also held several posts with such government and international agencies as NATO and the United States Atomic Energy Commission...

: An Interview Conducted by John Bryant, IEEE History Center, 20 June 1991

Oral History Transcript, Interview with John H. Van Vleck by Katherine Sopka at Lyman Laboratory of Physics, 28 January 1977
A radar history of World War II, By Louis Brown, Page 442 and Page 521
On the Shape of Collision-Broadened Lines, J. H. Van Vleck and V. F. Weisskopf
Victor Frederick Weisskopf
Victor Frederick Weisskopf was an Austrian-born Jewish American theoretical physicist. He did postdoctoral work with Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr...

; Reviews of Modern Physics, Volume 17, Number 2 and 3, April–July, 1945

This was to have important consequences not just for military (and civil) radar systems but later for the new science of radioastronomy.

J. H. van Vleck participated in the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

. In June 1942
Timeline of World War II (1942)
This is a timeline of events that stretched over the period of World War II.-January 1942:This is a timeline of events that stretched over the period of World War II.-January 1942:...

, J. Robert Oppenheimer held a summer study for confirming the concept and feasibility of nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

. Eight theoretical scientists, including J. H. van Vleck, attended it. From July to September, the theoretical study group examined and developed the principles of atomic bomb design.
New Weapons Laboratory Gives Birth to the "Gadget", 50th Anniversary Article, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Berkeley Summer Study Group, The Atomic Heritage Foundation
Atomic History Timeline 1900- 1942 , The Atomic Heritage Foundation
J. H. van Vleck's theoretical work led to establish the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory. He also served on the Los Alamos
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security , located in Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 Review committee in 1943. The committee, established by General Leslie Groves, also consisted of W.K. Lewis
Warren K. Lewis
Warren Kendall Lewis was an MIT professor who has been called the father of modern chemical engineering. He co-authored an early major textbook on the subject which essentially introduced the concept of unit operations...

 of MIT, Chairman; E.L. Rose, of Jones & Lamson; E.B. Wilson of Harvard; and Richard C. Tolman
Richard C. Tolman
Richard Chace Tolman was an American mathematical physicist and physical chemist who was an authority on statistical mechanics. He also made important contributions to theoretical cosmology in the years soon after Einstein's discovery of general relativity...

, Vice Chairman of NDRC
National Defense Research Committee
The National Defense Research Committee was an organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare" in the United States from June 27, 1940 until June 28, 1941...

. The committee's important contribution (originating with Rose) was a reduction in the size of the firing gun for the Little Boy
Little Boy
"Little Boy" was the codename of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, of the United States Army Air Forces. It was the first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon...

 atomic bomb, a concept which eliminated additional design-weight and sped up production of the bomb for its eventual release over Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

. However it was not employed for the Fat Man
Fat Man
"Fat Man" is the codename for the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States on August 9, 1945. It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons to be used in warfare to date , and its detonation caused the third man-made nuclear explosion. The name also refers more...

 bomb at Nagasaki
Nagasaki
is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the second half of the 16th century on the site of a small fishing village, formerly part of Nishisonogi District...

, which relied on implosion of a plutonium shell to reach critical mass.
Oversight Committee Formed as Lab Begins Research, 50th Anniversary Article, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Now It Can Be Told: Leslie R. Groves, Lieutenant
General, U.S. Army, Retired; Harper, 1962, pp. 162-63.


In the year 1961-62 he was George Eastman
George Eastman
George Eastman was an American innovator and entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company and invented roll film, helping to bring photography to the mainstream...

 Visiting Professor at University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

Nobel Laureates, University of Oxford and Professorship of Balliol College
Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College , founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England but founded by a family with strong Scottish connections....

.Inspiring minds: the Eastman Professors, Floreat Domus, Balliol College News, Issue 12, June 2006
He was awarded the National Medal of Science
National Medal of Science
The National Medal of Science is an honor bestowed by the President of the United States to individuals in science and engineering who have made important contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and...

 in 1966 The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details, National Science Foundation and the Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal is a prize awarded every four years by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was established in 1925 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the doctorate of Hendrik Lorentz. This solid gold medal is given for important contributions to theoretical physics, though...

 in 1974.The Lorents medal
For his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s in magnetic solids, van Vleck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

 1977, along with Philip W. Anderson
Philip Warren Anderson
Philip Warren Anderson is an American physicist and Nobel laureate. Anderson has made contributions to the theories of localization, antiferromagnetism and high-temperature superconductivity.- Biography :...

 and Sir Nevill Mott.The Nobel Prize in Physics 1977 Van Vleck transformations and Van Vleck paramagnetismVan Vleck paramagnetism, Answers.com are also named after him.

Dr. Van Vleck died in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, aged 81.
John Van Vleck, Nobel Laureate Known for Work on Magnetism; Earned Three Degree, The New York Times, October 28, 1980, Tuesday Page A32

Writing


Japanese art collector


J. H. van Vleck and his wife Abigail were also important art collectors, particularly in the medium of Japanese woodblock prints (principally Ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e
' is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters...

), known as Van Vleck Collection. It was inherited from his father Edward Burr Van Vleck
Edward Burr Van Vleck
Edward Burr Van Vleck was an American mathematician.The son of astronomer John Monroe Van Vleck, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1884, attended Johns Hopkins in 1885-87, and studied at Göttingen...

. They donated it to the Chazen Museum of Art
Chazen Museum of Art
The Chazen Museum of Art is an art museum accredited by the American Association of Museums located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Madison, Wisconsin. It was known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art until 2005...

 in Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. It is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison....

 in 1980s. E. B. Van Vleck Collection, Chazen Museum of Art

External links