Francis G. Slack

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Francis Goddard Slack (November 1, 1897 in Superior, Wisconsin – 1985) was an American physicist. He was a physics teacher, researcher, and administrator in academia who was renowned for placing equal emphasis on teaching and on research.

Education[edit]

Slack received his B.S. degree from the University of Georgia in 1918. Thereupon, he entered the United States Army, where he was trained and commissioned as a pilot; he did not see combat in World War I, as the war ended before his graduation from pilot training. In 1921, he entered Columbia University; he received his Ph.D. degree in physics in 1926. Between his entry and graduation from Columbia, Slack spent a period of study and research with Arnold Sommerfeld at his Institute of Theoretical Physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.[1][2][3][4]

Career[edit]

Slack remained at Columbia for a period after receipt of his doctorate. In 1928, he became an associate professor of physics at Vanderbilt University, where his focus was on strengthening both teaching and research. At Vanderbilt, he organized and equipped an advanced laboratory in which students could learn the fundamentals of electrical measurement in the performance of the famous experiments which measuered the fundamental constants such as the charge of the electron (q), the electron’s Mass-to-charge ratio (m/q), and Planck’s constant (h).[3][5]

In 1939, Slack was appointed Professor of Physics and head of the Vanderbilt Department of Physics. He advocated and practiced equal emphasis on teaching and on research in his academic career as a physics teacher, researcher, and administrator. While at Vanderbilt, Slack maintained ties with his alma mater Columbia University.[3]

In December 1938, the German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann sent a manuscript to Naturwissenschaften reporting they had detected the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons;[6] simultaneously, they communicated these results to Lise Meitner. Meitner, and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, correctly interpreted these results as being nuclear fission.[7] Frisch confirmed this experimentally on 13 January 1939.[8] In 1944, Hahn received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear fission. Some historians have documented the history of the discovery of nuclear fission and believe Meitner should have been awarded the Nobel Prize with Hahn.[9][10][11]

Even before it was published, Meitner’s and Frisch’s interpretation of the work of Hahn and Strassmann crossed the Atlantic Ocean with Niels Bohr, who was to lecture at Princeton University. Isidor Isaac Rabi and Willis Lamb, two Columbia University physicists working at Princeton, heard the news and carried it back to Columbia. Rabi said he told Fermi; Fermi gave credit to Lamb. It was soon clear to a number of scientists at Columbia that they should try to detect the energy released in the nuclear fission of uranium from neutron bombardment. On 25 January 1939, Slack was a member of the experimental team at Columbia University which conducted the first nuclear fission experiment in the United States,[12] which was conducted in the basement of Pupin Hall; the other members of the team were Herbert L. Anderson, Eugene T. Booth, John R. Dunning, Enrico Fermi, and G. Norris Glasoe.[13][14]

During the Manhattan Project, Slack returned to Columbia to work with Dunning, who was conducting pioneering work on gaseous diffusion to separate uranium isotopes; others working on the project included Booth, Henry A. Boorse, Willard F. Libby, and Alfred O. C. Nier.[13][15]

Slack was on the Editorial Advisory Board (formerly called Associate Editors) of the American Journal of Physics from 1941 to 1943.[16]

Selected Literature[edit]

  • Francis G. Slack The Duration of Radiation Excited in Hydrogen by 10.2 Volt Electron Impacts, Phys. Rev. Volume 28, Number 1, 1 - 12 (1926). Institutional citation: Phoenix Physical Laboratories, Columbia University. Received 15 April 1926.
  • Francis G. Slack Die Intensitätsdissymmetrie beim Wasserstoff-Starkeffekt. (Ein Erklärung auf Grund von Schrödingers Wellenmechanik), Ann. d. Phys. Volume 82, Number 4, 576-584 (1927). Received 24 December 1926.
  • Francis G. Slack Intensities in the Hydrogen Spectral Series, Phys. Rev. Volume 31, Number 4, 527 - 532 (1928). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Columbia University. Received 20 December 1927.
  • Francis G. Slack An Arrangement for Obtaining a Steady Flow of Gas at a Constant Low Pressure, Rev. Sci. Instrum. Volume 1, Issue 1, 33 (1930). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Francis G. Slack The Hydrogen Atom in the Stark Effect, Phys. Rev. Volume 35, Number 10, 1170 - 1176 (1930). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University. Received 4 April 1930.
  • Francis G. Slack and William M. Breazeale Magneto-Optic Rotation by Condenser Discharge, Phys. Rev. Volume 42, Number 2, 305 - 311 (1932). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University. Received 30 June 1932.
  • Francis G. Slack, Ralph L. Reeves, and James A. Peoples, Jr. The Effect of Concentration, Temperature and Wave-Length of Light upon the Verdet Constant of Cerous Chloride Solutions, Phys. Rev. Volume 46, Number 8, 724 - 727 (1934). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University. Received 20 June 1934.
  • R. T. Lageman and F. G. Slack Magneto-Optical Rotation and Natural Dispersion in Gases, Phys. Rev. Volume 49, Number 11, 807 - 809 (1936). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University. Received 6 April 1936.
  • Francis G. Slack The Verdet Constant of Heavy Water, Phys. Rev. Volume 46, Number 11, 945 - 947 (1934). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Vanderbilt University. Received 1 October 1934.
  • E. T. Booth, J. R. Dunning, and F. G. Slack Delayed Neutron Emission from Uranium, Phys. Rev. Volume 55, Number 9, 876 - 876 (1939). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Columbia University, New York, New York. Received 17 April 1939.
  • E. T. Booth, J. R. Dunning, and F. G. Slack Energy Distribution of Uranium Fission Fragments, Phys. Rev. Volume 55, Number 10, 981 - 981 (1939). Institutional citation: Pupin Physics Laboratories, Columbia University, New York, New York. Received 1 May 1939.
  • Philip Rudnick, F. G. Slack, and John O'Connor Rotatory Power of Nickel Sulphate at Low Temperatures, Phys. Rev. Volume 58, Number 11, 1003 - 1003 (1940). Institutional citation: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Received 7 November 1940.
  • G. Forman, P. Rudnick, F. G. Slack, and N. Underwood A Two-Year Course in Basic Elementary Physics, American Journal of Physics Volume 17, Issue 1, 22-23 (1949). Institutional citation: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Honors[edit]

  • Francis G. Slack Award – An award of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society to honor Excellence in Service to Physics in the Southeast. The award was proposed in 1998 and it was first awarded in 2000.[17][18]
  • Francis G. Slack Lecture Series – An annual lecture series established in 1977 in the Vanderbilt University Department of Physics and Astronomy.[3]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bromley, David Allen Francis G. Slack Lectures (Vanderbilt University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1979)
  • Hamilton, Joseph H., Robert T. Lagemann, and Ernest A. Jones Francis G. Slack: Distinguished Vanderbilt Scientist

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Francis G. Slack – Letter of appreciation to Arnold Sommerfeld, 22 July 1923.
  2. ^ Pauling, Linus Arnold Sommerfeld: 1868 – 1951, Science Volume 114, Number 2963, 383-384 (1951).
  3. ^ a b c d Francis G. Slack Collection – 1928-1978, Vanderbilt University.
  4. ^ Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. Volume 5 Erwin Schrödinger and the Rise of Wave Mechanics. Part 2 Schrödinger in Vienna and Zurich 1887-1925. p. 723 (Springer, 2001) ISBN 0-387-95180-6.
  5. ^ Francis G. Slack Intensities in the Hydrogen Spectral Series, Phys. Rev. Volume 31, Number 4, 527 - 532 (1928). Institutional citation: Department of Physics, Columbia University. Received 20 December 1927.
  6. ^ O. Hahn and F. Strassmann Über den Nachweis und das Verhalten der bei der Bestrahlung des Urans mittels Neutronen entstehenden Erdalkalimetalle (On the detection and characteristics of the alkaline earth metals formed by irradiation of uranium with neutrons), Naturwissenschaften Volume 27, Number 1, 11-15 (1939). The authors were identified as being at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Chemie, Berlin-Dahlem. Received 22 December 1938.
  7. ^ Lise Meitner and O. R. Frisch Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction, Nature, Volume 143, Number 3615, 239-240 (11 February 1939). The paper is dated 16 January 1939. Meitner is identified as being at the Physical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Stockholm. Frisch is identified as being at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Copenhagen.
  8. ^ O. R. Frisch Physical Evidence for the Division of Heavy Nuclei under Neutron Bombardment, Nature, Volume 143, Number 3616, 276-276 (18 February 1939). The paper is dated 17 January 1939. [The experiment for this letter to the editor was conducted on 13 January 1939; see Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb 263 and 268 (Simon and Schuster, 1986).]
  9. ^ Ruth Lewin Sime From Exceptional Prominence to Prominent Exception: Lise Meitner at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry Ergebnisse 24 Forschungsprogramm Geschichte der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus (2005).
  10. ^ Ruth Lewin Sime Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics (University of California, 1997).
  11. ^ Elisabeth Crawford, Ruth Lewin Sime, and Mark Walker A Nobel Tale of Postwar Injustice, Physics Today Volume 50, Issue 9, 26-32 (1997).
  12. ^ H. L. Anderson, E. T. Booth, J. R. Dunning, E. Fermi, G. N. Glasoe, and F. G. Slack The Fission of Uranium, Phys. Rev. Volume 55, Number 5, 511 - 512 (1939). Institutional citation: Pupin Physics Laboratories, Columbia University, New York, New York. Received 16 February 1939.
  13. ^ a b Bederson, Benjamin The Physical Tourist: Physics in New York City, Physics in Perspective Volume 5, 87-121 (2003).
  14. ^ Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb 267-270 (Simon and Schuster, 1986).
  15. ^ Boney, F. N. and Michael Adams A Pictorial History of the University of Georgia 114 (University of Georgia, 2000).
  16. ^ AJP Editors.
  17. ^ Francis G. Slack Award
  18. ^ APS Newsletter – Southeastern Section of the APS.