Percy Williams Bridgman
|Percy Williams Bridgman|
21 April 1882|
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
|Died||20 August 1961
Randolph, New Hampshire, United States
|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)
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.
Bridgman's parents were both born in New England. His father, Raymond Landon Bridgman, was "profoundly religious and idealistic" and worked as a newspaper reporter assigned to state politics. His mother, Mary Ann Maria Williams, was described as "more conventional, sprightly, and competitive".
Bridgman attended both elementary and high school in Auburndale, where he excelled at competitions in the classroom, on the playground, and while playing chess. Described as both shy and proud, his home life consisted of family music, card games, and domestic and garden chores. The family was deeply religious; reading the Bible each morning and attending a Congregational Church.
Education and professional life
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.
His philosophy of science book The Logic of Modern Physics (1927) advocated operationalism and coined the term operational definition. In 1938 he participated in the International Committee composed to organise the International Congresses for the Unity of Science. He was also one of the 11 signatories to the Russell–Einstein Manifesto.
Home life and death
Bridgman married Olive Ware, of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1912. Ware's father, Edmund Asa Ware, was the founder and first president of Atlanta University. The couple had two children and were married for 50 years, living most of that time in Cambridge. The family also had a summer home in Randolph, New Hampshire, where Bridgman was known as a skilled mountain climber.
Bridgman was a "penetrating analytical thinker" with a "fertile mechanical imagination" and exceptional manual dexterity. He was a skilled plumber and carpenter, known to shun the assistance of professionals in these matters. He was also fond of music and played the piano, and took pride in his flower and vegetable gardens.
Bridgman committed suicide by gunshot after suffering from 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." Bridgman's words have been quoted by many in the assisted suicide debate.
Honors and awards
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, and the Comstock Prize (1933) of the National Academy of Sciences. 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.
In 2014, the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) approved the name bridgmanite for perovskite-structured (Mg,Fe)SiO3, the Earth's most abundant mineral, in honor of his high-pressure research.
- — (1922). Dimensional Analysis. New Haven: Yale University Press. OCLC 840631.
- — (1925). A Condensed Collection of Thermodynamics Formulas. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. OCLC 594940689.
- — (1927). The Logic of Modern Physics. New York: Macmillan. OCLC 17522325. Online excerpt.
- — (1961) [First published 1925 and 1934]. Thermodynamics of Electrical Phenomena in Metals and a Condensed Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas. New Haven: Macmillan. OCLC 610252150.
- — (1936). The Nature of Physical Theory. Dover. OCLC 1298653.
- — (1938). The Intelligent Individual and Society. New York: MacMillan. OCLC 1488461.
- — (1943). The Nature of Thermodynamics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780844605128. OCLC 4614803.
- — (1949). The Physics of High Pressure. London: G. Bell. OCLC 8122603.
- — (1950). Reflections of a Physicist. New York: Philosophical Library. OCLC 583047.
- — (1952). Studies in large plastic flow and fracture: with special emphasis on the effects of hydrostatic pressure. New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 7435297.
- — (1959). The Way Things Are. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674948303. OCLC 40803473.
- — (1962). A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press. OCLC 530615.
- — (1964). Collected experimental papers. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Pres. OCLC 372237.
- Newitt, D. M. (1962). "Percy Williams Bridgman 1882–1961". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 8: 26–40. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1962.0003.
- "Percy W. Bridgman". Physics Today. 14 (10): 78. 1961. doi:10.1063/1.3057180.
- Bridgman, P. (1914). "A Complete Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas". Physical Review. 3 (4): 273–281. Bibcode:1914PhRv....3..273B. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.3.273.
- Bridgman, P. W. (1956). "Probability, Logic, and ESP". Science. 123 (3184): 15–17. Bibcode:1956Sci...123...15B. PMID 13281470. doi:10.1126/science.123.3184.15.
- Kemble, Edwin C.; Birch, Francis (1970). Percy Williams Bridgman - 1882—1961 (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. pp. 25, 26, 27.
- Hazen, Robert (1999), The Diamond Makers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-65474-2
- Neurath, Otto (1938). "Unified Science as Encyclopedic Integration". International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. 1 (1): 1–27.
- Nuland, Sherwin. How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. Vintage Press, 1995. ISBN 0-679-74244-1.
- Ayn Rand Institute discussion on assisted suicide. Aynrand.org. Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
- Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. Assistedsuicide.org (2003-06-13). Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
- "Bakhuys Roozeboom Fund laureates". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
- "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- 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 (519 KB)
- mindat.org page on bridgmanite. mindat.org. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
- Murakami, M.; Sinogeikiin S.V.; Hellwig H.; Bass J.D.; Li J. (2007). "Sound velocity of MgSiO3 perovskite to Mbar pressure" (PDF). 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.
- Kovarik, A. F. (1929). "Review: The Logic of Modern Physics by P. W. Bridgman" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 35 (3): 412–413. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1929-04767-0.
- Riepe, D. (1950). "Book Review: Reflections of a Physicist, by P. W. Bridgman". Popular Astronomy. 58: 367–368. Bibcode:1950PA.....58..367R.
- 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 (published Oct 2005), 4 (10), pp. 715–8, Bibcode:2005NatMa...4..715M, PMID 16195758, doi:10.1038/nmat1488
- Bridgman's Nobel Prize website
- National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir
- Percy Williams Bridgman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
|Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck