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Polykarp Kusch

Polykarp KuschBorn: 26-Jan-1911
Birthplace: Blankenburg, Germany
Died: 20-Mar-1993
Location of death: Dallas, TX
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Magnetic moment of the electron

Polykarp Kusch worked at the Cleveland Public Library to earn his tuition to Case's School of Applied Science (now Case Western). He worked under Isidor Isaac Rabi, and conducted numerous molecular beam magnetic resonance experiments, including his landmark measurement of the magnetic moment of an electron. He designed the instruments he used in this endeavor, and famously said, "The pleasure of having apparatus of one's own design function perfectly down to the last screw hole is, I am certain, much greater than opening a crate. To design one's own apparatus is equivalent to asking questions in one's own way."

In 1947 he and his team made the first direct measurement of the electron's magnetic moment, tracking and determining the the magnetic role each hydrogen atom's electron plays and correcting a very small but important inaccuracy in the predicted findings. His work had a profound impact on the development of quantum electrodynamics (QED), and earned Kusch the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1955. His Nobel honor was shared with Willis Lamb, who conducted complementary work independently.

Though born in Germany, Kusch immigrated to America with his family when when he was still a toddler. During World War II he conducted military-related research at Bell Labs, Westinghouse Electric, and at Columbia University, where he spent most of his career. His mother, Henrietta Van Der Haas, was a modestly successful author of juvenile novels. Kusch was regarded as an excellent teacher and a pioneer of laser science, and his students included laser developer Gordon Gould. He was active in the Democratic Party, spoke out against nuclear proliferation, and criticized the Catholic Church's edicts against any form of birth control. He had a fondness for technical puns, and his favorite bedtime reading material was his 26-volume Oxford English Dictionary.

Father: John Mathias Kusch (Lutheran clergyman)
Mother: Henrietta van der Haas (novelist)
Wife: Edith Starr McRoberts (m. 12-Aug-1935, d. 1959, five daughters)
Wife: Betty Pezzoni (m. 1960)

    High School: East Technical High School, Cleveland, OH (1926)
    University: BS Physics, Case Institute of Technology, Cleveland, OH (1931)
    University: MS Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1933)
    University: PhD Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1936)
    Scholar: Mass Spectroscopy, University of Minnesota (1936-37)
    Teacher: Physics, Columbia University (1937-41)
    Scholar: War Research, Columbia University (1942-44)
    Teacher: Physics, Columbia University (1946-49)
    Professor: Physics, Columbia University (1949-72)
    Administrator: Columbia Radiation Laboratory, Columbia University (1952-60)
    Fellow: Behavioral Science, Stanford University (1964-65)
    Administrator: Dean of Faculty, Columbia University (1969-70)
    Administrator: Provost, Columbia University (1970-71)
    Professor: Physics, University of Texas at Dallas (1972-74)
    Professor: Eugene McDermott Professor of Physics, University of Texas at Dallas (1974-82)

    Nobel Prize for Physics 1955 (with Willis Lamb)
    Alexander Hamilton Medal 1961
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Association of Physics Teachers
    American Philosophical Society
    Democratic National Committee Science & Technology Committee, 1959-60
    National Academy of Sciences 1956
    Texas Historical Society
    Westinghouse Research engineer, 1941-42
    Bell Laboratories Research engineer, 1944-46
    IBM Consultant, 1952-57
    National Institute of Standards and Technology
    Naturalized US Citizen 1922
    Stroke (several, 1992-93)

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