© The Nobel Foundation
Albert Abraham Michelson

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Albert Abraham Michelson:
Nobel Prize in Physics

by Seymour”Sy” Brody

Albert Abraham Michelson was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1907, for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations carried out with their aid. He was the first American, to win this prestigious award.

He was born on December 19, 1852, in Steino Prussia. When he was two years, his family immigrated to the United States and lived in Virginia City, Nevada. In a short time, they moved to San Francisco, California, where he received his education in the public school system. He graduated high school in 1869.

President Grant gave him an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated in 1873 and was first in his class in optics. He became an ensign and after a two-year Naval cruise, he stayed at the Naval Academy as an instructor in physics and chemistry.

In 1883, he accepted an appointment as Professor of Physics in the Case School of Applied Sciences in Cleveland, Ohio. In1890, he went to Clark University, Massachusetts, as a Professor of Physics. In 1892, he became the first chairman of a department and a Professor of Physics at the new University of Chicago.

In 1899, he married Edna Stanton and they had four children.

When the United States entered World War I, he rejoined the Navy. When World War I ended, he returned to the University of Chicago. In 1925, he was appointed the first of the Distinguished Service Professorships. He remained until 1929, when he went to work at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California.

In his career, Michelson excelled in the field of optics. In 1881, he invented interferometers for the purpose of discovering the effect of the Earth’s motion. He worked with Edward W. Morely which established the speed of light as a fundamental constant.

Awards and Honors:
● American Physical Society, 1900
● American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1910-1911
● National Academy of Sciences, 1923-1927
● A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
● Royal Society of London
● Optical Society
● Associate of l’Academe Francaise
● Matteucci Medal, 1904
● Copley Medal of the Royal Society, 1907
● Elliot Cresson Medal, Franklin Institute, 1912
● Draper Medal, National Academy of Sciences, 1916
● Franklin Medal, Franklin Institute, 1923
● Draper Medal, National Academy of Sciences, 1916
● Franklin Medal, Franklin Institute, 1923
● Medals of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1923
● Duddell Medal, Physical Society, 1929
Albert Abraham Michelson died in 1923

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