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Charles Kittel

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Charles Kittel
Born(1916-07-18)July 18, 1916
DiedMay 15, 2019(2019-05-15) (aged 102)
Known for
SpouseMuriel A. Lister
Scientific career
ThesisThe fine structure of nuclear energy levels on the alpha model (1941)
Doctoral advisorGregory Breit
Doctoral students

Charles Kittel (July 18, 1916 – May 15, 2019) was an American physicist. He was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley from 1951 and was professor emeritus from 1978 until his death.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Charles Kittel was born in New York City in 1916. He attended the Horace Mann School for Boys, graduating in June 1934. Kittel then entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a chemistry major before switching to physics. He transferred to the St John's College, Cambridge two years later, where he obtained a bachelor of arts in 1938.[2][3]

Kittel began his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison the same year and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1941, with a thesis supervised by Gregory Breit.[2][4]


During World War II, he joined the Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG). (He is mentioned on page 478 of RV Jones' book Most Secret War, published 1978.) He served in the United States Navy as a naval attache.

Kittel joined MIT again in 1945, this time as a research associate, remaining there until 1947. From 1947 to 1951, he worked for Bell Laboratories, New Jersey, USA, especially on ferromagnetism.[5]

From 1951 to 1978, he worked at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught and did research in the field of theoretical solid-state physics, a part of condensed-matter physics. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945, 1956 and 1963. Many well-known postdoctoral fellows worked with him, including James C. Phillips and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes.[6]

Among other achievements, Kittel is credited with the theoretical discovery of the RKKY interaction (the first K standing for Kittel) and the Kittel magnon mode in ferromagnets.[7]

Physics students worldwide study his classic text Introduction to Solid State Physics, now in its 8th edition.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Kittel married Muriel A. Lister, at the time an English literature student, in 1938 during his time at Cambridge. The two had three kids: Peter, Ruth and Timothy. Lister, who went on to have a career as a scholarly translator, died in 2009 at the age of 93.[2]

Kittel died on May 15, 2019, at his home in Berkeley. He was 102.[8][9]

Honors and awards[edit]

Kittel was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, elected in 1957.[2]


  • Introduction to Solid State Physics, 1st ed. 1953 - 8th ed. 2005, ISBN 0-471-41526-X
  • Quantum Theory of Solids, 1963, ISBN 0-471-49025-3 and (with C. Y. Fong) 1987, ISBN 0-471-62412-8
  • Thermal Physics, 2nd ed. 1980, ISBN 0-7167-1088-9, and (with H. Kroemer) 1980.
  • Berkeley Physics Course. Mechanics. Vol. 1, with Walter Knight and Malvin A. Ruderman
  • Elementary Statistical Physics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1958. OCLC 912372820. Reprinted five times by 1967; a reproduction was published in 2004 by Dover (ISBN 9780486435145).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Charles Kittel". Array of Contemporary American Physicists. American Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on December 31, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Cohen, Marvin L.; Cohen, Morrel H. (2021). "Charles Kittel (1916–2019)" (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  3. ^ Sleeman, Elizabeth, ed. (November 2, 2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-85-743217-6 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Kittel, Charles (1941). The fine structure of nuclear energy levels on the alpha model (Ph.D.). University of Wisconsin–Madison. ISBN 978-1-08-424277-7. OCLC 948185111 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "Kittel, Charles". history.aip.org.
  6. ^ Alphabetical list of Fellows Archived August 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine on John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation's website.
  7. ^ a b Cohen, Marvin L.; Cohen, Morrel H. (2019). "Charles Kittel". Physics Today. 72 (10): 73. Bibcode:2019PhT....72j..73C. doi:10.1063/PT.3.4326. OSTI 1737577. S2CID 216580309.
  8. ^ "Remembering Charles Kittel | UC Berkeley Physics". physics.berkeley.edu. Archived from the original on May 17, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Cohen, Marvin L. (2020). "In Memoriam | Charles Kittel". University of California Academic Senate. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  10. ^ "Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize". AIP. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  11. ^ Karplus, Robert (1979). "Oersted Medal". The Physics Teacher. 17 (4): 262–279. Bibcode:1979PhTea..17..262K. doi:10.1119/1.2340210.

External links[edit]