Arthur H. Compton

From Ohio History Central

Arthur Holly Compton was born on September 10, 1892, in Wooster, Ohio. He spent his formative years in this community, with his father, Elias Compton, serving as Dean of the College of Wooster. In 1913, Arthur Compton graduated from the college with a Bachelor of Science degree. He then pursued graduate degrees in physics from Princeton University, receiving a Masters degree from this institution in 1914 and a doctorate in 1916. After teaching physics for a year at the University of Minnesota, Compton accepted a research position at the Westinghouse Lamp Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He remained here until 1919, when he became a research fellow at Cambridge University in Great Britain for one year.

Upon returning to the United States in 1920, Compton became the chair of the Department of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He remained here until 1923, when he joined the University of Chicago as a professor of physics. Compton spent the next twenty-two years of his life in Chicago, returning to Washington University in 1945 to serve as this institution's chancellor. He retired from Washington University in 1961.

Compton became one of the world's leading physicists during the first part of the twentieth century. He was an expert on x-rays and cosmic rays and was most recognized for his development of the Compton Effect. In 1927, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. During World War II, Compton was the chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Committee to Evaluate Use of Atomic Energy in War. In this position, Compton helped develop the reactors necessary to produce the plutonium needed for the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

Upon retiring from Washington University in 1961, Compton resided in Berkeley, California. He died there on May 15, 1962.

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