Percy Williams Bridgman

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Percy Williams Bridgman
Bridgman.jpg
Born (1882-04-21)21 April 1882
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Died 20 August 1961(1961-08-20) (aged 79)
Randolph, New Hampshire, USA
Suicide
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Harvard University
Alma mater Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Wallace Clement Sabine
Doctoral students Francis Birch
John C. Slater
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck
Known for High Pressure Physics
Notable awards Rumford Prize (1917)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1932)
Comstock Prize in Physics (1933)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1946)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1949)[1]
Bingham Medal (1951)

Percy Williams Bridgman (21 April 1882 – 20 August 1961) was an American physicist who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on the scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science.[2][3][4]

Biography[edit]

Bridgman entered Harvard University in 1900, and studied physics through to his Ph.D.. From 1910 until his retirement, he taught at Harvard, becoming a full professor in 1919. In 1905, he began investigating the properties of matter under high pressure. A machinery malfunction led him to modify his pressure apparatus; the result was a new device enabling him to create pressures eventually exceeding 100,000 kgf/cm² (10 GPa; 100,000 atmospheres). This was a huge improvement over previous machinery, which could achieve pressures of only 3,000 kgf/cm² (0.3 GPa). This new apparatus led to an abundance of new findings, including a study of the compressibility, electric and thermal conductivity, tensile strength and viscosity of more than 100 different compounds. Bridgman is also known for his studies of electrical conduction in metals and properties of crystals. He developed the Bridgman seal and is the eponym for Bridgman's thermodynamic equations.

Bridgman made many improvements to his high pressure apparatus over the years, and unsuccessfully attempted the synthesis of diamond many times.[5]

His philosophy of science book The Logic of Modern Physics (1927) advocated operationalism and coined the term operational definition. He was also one of the 11 signatories to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Death[edit]

Bridgman committed suicide by gunshot after living with metastatic cancer for some time. His suicide note read in part, "It isn't decent for society to make a man do this thing himself. Probably this is the last day I will be able to do it myself."[6] Bridgman's words have been quoted by many on both sides[clarification needed] of the assisted suicide debate.[7][8]

Honors and awards[edit]

Bridgman received Doctors, honoris causa from Stevens Institute (1934), Harvard (1939), Brooklyn Polytechnic (1941), Princeton (1950), Paris (1950), and Yale (1951). He received the Bingham Medal (1951) from the Society of Rheology, the Rumford Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1919), the Elliott Cresson Medal (1932) from the Franklin Institute, the Gold Medal from Bakhuys Roozeboom Fund (founder Hendrik Willem Bakhuis Roozeboom) (1933) from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences,[9] and the Comstock Prize (1933) of the National Academy of Sciences.[10] He was a member of the American Physical Society and was its President in 1942. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and Honorary Fellow of the Physical Society of London.

The Percy W. Bridgman House, in Massachusetts, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark designated in 1975.[11]

In 2014, the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) approved the name bridgmanite for perovksite-structured (Mg,Fe)SiO3,[12] the Earth's most abundant mineral,[13] in honor of his high-pressure research.

Bibliography[edit]

  • 1922. Dimensional Analysis. Yale University Press
  • 1925. A Condensed Collection of Thermodynamics Formulas. Harvard University Press
  • 1927. The Logic of Modern Physics.[14] Beaufort Books. Online excerpt.
  • 1934. Thermodynamics of Electrical Phenomena in Metals and a Condensed Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas. MacMillan.
  • 1936. The Nature of Physical Theory. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1938. The Intelligent Individual and Society. MacMillan.
  • 1941. The Nature of Thermodynamics. Harper & Row, Publishers.
  • 1952. The Physics of High Pressure. G. Bell.
  • 1959. The Way Things Are. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1962. A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • 1964. Collected experimental papers. Harvard University Press.
  • 1980. Reflections of a Physicist.[15] Arno Press; ISBN 0-405-12595-X

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Newitt, D. M. (1962). "Percy Williams Bridgman 1882-1961". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 8: 26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1962.0003.  edit
  2. ^ "Percy W. Bridgman". Physics Today 14 (10): 78. 1961. doi:10.1063/1.3057180.  edit
  3. ^ Bridgman, P. (1914). "A Complete Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas". Physical Review 3 (4): 273. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.3.273.  edit
  4. ^ Bridgman, P. W. (1956). "Probability, Logic, and ESP". Science 123 (3184): 15–17. doi:10.1126/science.123.3184.15. PMID 13281470.  edit
  5. ^ Hazen, Robert (1999), The Diamond Makers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-65474-2 
  6. ^ Nuland, Sherwin. How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. Vintage Press, 1995. ISBN 0-679-74244-1.
  7. ^ Ayn Rand Institute discussion on assisted suicide. Aynrand.org. Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  8. ^ Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Assistedsuicide.org (2003-06-13). Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  9. ^ "Bakhuys Roozeboom Fund laureates". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  11. ^ James Sheire (February 1975), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Percy Bridgman House / Bridgman House-Buckingham School (PDF), National Park Service, retrieved 2009-06-22  and Accompanying one photo, exterior, from 1975 PDF (519 KB)
  12. ^ mindat.org page on bridgmanite. mindat.org. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  13. ^ Murakami, M.; Sinogeikiin S.V., Hellwig H., Bass J.D. & Li J. (2007). "Sound velocity of MgSiO3 perovskite to Mbar pressure". Earth and Planetary Science Letters (Elsevier) 256: 47–54. Bibcode:2007E&PSL.256...47M. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.01.011. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Kovarik, A. F. (1929). "Review: The Logic of Modern Physics by P. W. Bridgman". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 35 (3): 412. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1929-04767-0. 
  15. ^ Riepe, D. (1950). "Book Review: Reflections of a Physicist, by P. W. Bridgman". Popular Astronomy 58: 367–368. Bibcode:1950PA.....58..367R. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Walter, Maila L., 1991. Science and Cultural Crisis: An Intellectual Biography of Percy Williams Bridgman (1882–1961). Stanford Univ. Press.
  • McMillan, Paul F (2005), Pressing on: the legacy of Percy W. Bridgman., Nature materials (Oct 2005) 4 (10): 715–8, Bibcode:2005NatMa...4..715M, doi:10.1038/nmat1488, PMID 16195758 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Theodore Lyman
Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
1926–1950
Succeeded by
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck