Grant O. Gale

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Grant Oscar Gale (December 29, 1903 – April 14, 1998)[1] was the S.S. Williston Professor of physics at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, the curator of Grinnell's Physics Historical Museum, and the namesake of the Grant O. Gale Observatory on the Grinnell campus.[2]

While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Gale was a classmate of John Bardeen with whom he kept in touch in later years.

After graduation in 1928 Gale was offered an instructor position in physics at Grinnell College,[3] and eventually became Professor of Physics. Until his death in 1998 he collected science equipment which had become obsolete and maintained a series of exhibits which now form the core of Grinnell's Physics Historical Museum.[4]

From Bardeen, Gale acquired early versions of the transistor. One of Gale's most noted students was his former baby sitter, Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit and founder of Intel. While Noyce was his student at Grinnell:

Gale had kept up with Bardeen and his work, and he obtained two transistors in 1948 while Noyce was an undergraduate. Noyce worked with Gale on the transistor and was thus among the first to encounter its limitless potential.[5]

Gale's mentorship of Noyce was also instrumental in protecting him from disciplinary action when Noyce stole a pig from a nearby farmer (who actually was also the Mayor) and then slaughtered it in Clark Hall for a college luau. The prank would have earned him expulsion and jail time since livestock theft was a felony offense in Iowa, if not for Gale's intervention.[6] (The pig you refer to was actually slaughtered by Roger Barnes, a Hawaiian physics student in the fall of 1966. Mr. Barnes was encouraged and assisted by Richard Weeks of Palatine, Illinois and John Pittman of Lake Oswego, Oregon and elected by his housemates to prepare the feast. He was the only student who had any actual experience preparing a suckling pig for a luau. The festivities were halted when a maintenance man saw the pig hanging from the shower spigot and alerted the Dean of Men. The Dean surprised the assisting group of students who were just on a "study break" and ordered them to stop immediately. They were directed to take the carcass to the Saga Foods Dining Hall where it could be properly disposed of. The partially shaved and scrubbed pig may not have reached its intended destination and actually ended up at Clark Hall, the dormitory adjacent to the Dining Room. Thankfully. It was a cold night.)

Gale was also the physics instructor for Grinnell music student Herbie Hancock.[7]

The large "Alpha and Omega Sundial" which sits next to the Noyce Science Center on the Grinnell College campus is named in honor of Gale's wife Harriet.[8]


  1. ^ "Grinnell: Longtime physics professor dies", Iowa City News Journal, April 16, 1998.
  2. ^ About the Grant O. Gale Observatory Archived 2013-02-17 at the Wayback Machine., Grinnell College, retrieved 2013-02-26.
  3. ^ Transcript from Voices of the Past: Grant Gale, Drake Community Library, Grinnell, Iowa.
  4. ^ Physics Historical Museum, Grinnell College
  5. ^ page 94, Richard Tedlow, Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American Business Icon, Penguin, 2007.
  6. ^ Berlin, Leslie (2005), The Man Behind the Microchip : Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, Oxford University Press, p. 22, ISBN 9780198036883.
  7. ^ Herbie Hancock '60 Archived 2012-09-05 at the Wayback Machine., Grinnell College, retrieved 2013-02-26.
  8. ^ Alpha and Omega Sundial, Grinnell College

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