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George Russell Harrison

Born: 14-Jul-1898
Birthplace: San Diego, CA
Died: 27-Jul-1979
Location of death: Concord, MA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist, Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Echelle spectrograph

Military service: US Army (1920); Office of Scientific Research and Development (1944-45)

George Russell Harrison invented the echelle spectrograph, developed a high-speed automatic comparator for measuring the intensities and wavelengths of spectral lines, and compiled the MIT Wavelength Tables, a comprehensive catalogue of more than 10,000 spectrum lines. He designed the first practical ruling engine, controlled by optical interferometric techniques, for producing high-quality diffraction gratings. He wrote several books explaining scientific principles to children, textbooks explaining much more advanced principles, and the best-seller Atoms in Action, describing how advances in physics had been adapted to practical uses in agriculture, aviation, communications, medicine, radio, weather forecasting, and other technologies. His second wife was a well-known romance, mystery, and children's novelist, writing under pseudonyms including Betsy Allen, Betty Cavanna, and Elizabeth Headley. Harrison provided the illustrations for many of her books.

Wife: Florence Kent Harrison (m. 1922, d. 1955, no children)
Wife: Elizabeth Cavanna Headley Harrison ("Betty Cavanna", author, b. 1909, m. 1957, d. 2001)
Son: Stephen Cavanna Headley (stepson, anthropologist)

    University: BS Physics, Stanford University (1919)
    University: MS Physics, Stanford University (1920)
    University: PhD Physics, Stanford University (1922)
    Scholar: Spectroscopy, Harvard University (1923-25)
    Teacher: Spectroscopy, Stanford University (1925-30)
    Professor: Experimental Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1930-64)
    Administrator: Dean of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1942-64)

    Rumford Prize 1939
    Presidential Medal of Freedom
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Philosophical Society
    American Physical Society
    National Defense Research Committee (1942-43)
    National Research Council
    Optical Society of America

Author of books:
Atoms in Action: The World of Creative Physics (1939)
MIT Wavelength Tables (1939)
How Things Work: Science for Young Americans (1941)
Practical Spectroscopy (1948, with Richard C. Lord and John R. Loofbourow)
Applied Physics: Electronics, Optics, Metallurgy (1948, with Chauncey Guy Suits and Louis Jordan)
What Man May Be: The Human Side of Science (1956)
The First Book of Light (1964)
The First Book of Energy (1965)
The Conquest of Energy (1968)
Lasers (1971)


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