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John H. van Vleck

John H. van VleckAKA John Hasbrouck van Vleck

Born: 13-Mar-1899
Birthplace: Middletown, CT
Died: 27-Oct-1980
Location of death: Cambridge, MA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, WI

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Quantum theory of paramagnetism

American physicist John H. van Vleck studied Paul Dirac's then-new wave equation, to reveal its implications for the scientific understanding of magnetism, and developed the concept of temperature-independent susceptibility, now known as Van Vleck paramagnetism. In 1924 he explained the correspondence principle of absorption. In 1948 he introduced the "crystal field" concept of magnetic ionization. In 1952 he proposed a feasible compromise between two competing theories of magnetic itinerant electrons. He studied nuclear magnetism, ferromagnetism, molecular bonding, and magnetic resonance, and he is considered a founder of the modern theory of magnetism. His work was instrumental to the developing science of solid-state physics, with applications spanning modern electronics, and he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1977.

In college he was a member of the University of Wisconsin marching band, and he later wrote an article exploring the history of college football fight songs. He was always fascinated with railroads, memorizing the schedules of all the passenger trains serving his home town of Madison when he was a boy, and he remained familiar with arrivals and departure times even at Harvard.

Father: Edward Burr Van Vleck (mathematician, b. 7-Jun-1863, d. 3-Jun-1943)
Mother: Hester Laurence Raymond (b. 22-Mar-1868, d. 9-Nov-1948)
Wife: Abigail June Pearson (b. 27-Jun-1900, m. 10-Jun-1927, d. 2-Feb-1989, no children)

    University: Madison Central High School, Madison, WI (1916)
    University: BA Physics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1920)
    University: MS Physics, Harvard University (1921)
    University: PhD Physics, Harvard University (1922)
    Lecturer: Physics, Harvard University (1922-23)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1923-27)
    Professor: Physics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1927-28)
    Professor: Physics, University of Wisconsin at Madison (1928-34)
    Professor: Mathematical Physics, Harvard University (1934-51)
    Professor: Hollis Professor of Mathematical and Natural Philosophy, Harvard University (1951-69)
    Administrator: Dean of Engineering and Applied Physics, Harvard University (1951-57)

    Guggenheim Fellowship 1930
    CMG Albert Abraham Michelson Award 1952
    APS Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics 1965
    National Medal of Science 1967
    Elliott Cresson Gold Medal of the Franklin Institute 1971
    Lorentz Medal 1974
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1977 (with Philip W. Anderson and Nevill F. Mott)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Mathematical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    American Physical Society President, 1952-53
    French Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1974
    French Physical Society Foreign Member
    International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science
    IEEE
    International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Vice President, 1958-60
    Manhattan Project
    National Academy of Sciences 1935
    Royal Academy of Arts Foreign Member
    Royal Society
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Dutch Ancestry

Author of books:
Quantum Principles and Line Spectra (1926, physics)
The Theory of Electric and Magnetic Susceptibilities (1932, physics)


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