Samuel Goudsmit

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Samuel Goudsmit
George Uhlenbeck, Hendrik Kramers,
and Samuel Goudsmit around 1928 in
Ann Arbor.
Born (1902-07-11)July 11, 1902
The Hague, Netherlands
Died December 4, 1978(1978-12-04) (aged 76)
Reno, Nevada
Nationality Dutch-American
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Michigan
Alma mater University of Leiden (Ph.D) (1927)
Doctoral students Robert Bacher
Known for Electron spin
Operation Alsos
Notable awards National Medal of Science (1976)

Samuel Goudsmit (July 11, 1902 – December 4, 1978) was a Dutch-American physicist famous for jointly proposing the concept of electron spin with George Eugene Uhlenbeck in 1925.[1][2]


Samuel Abraham Goudsmit was of Dutch-Jewish descent, the son of Isaac Goudsmit, a manufacturer of water-closets, and Marianne Goudsmit-Gompers who ran a millinery shop. In 1943 his parents were deported to a concentration camp by the German occupiers of the Netherlands and were murdered there.[3]

Goudsmit studied physics at the University of Leiden under Paul Ehrenfest,[4] where he obtained his PhD in 1927. After receiving his PhD, Goudsmit served as a Professor at the University of Michigan between 1927 and 1946. In 1930 he co-authored a text with Linus Pauling titled The Structure of Line Spectra. During World War II he worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[5]

Alsos Members

He was also the scientific head of the Alsos Mission and successfully reached the German group of nuclear physicists around Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn at Hechingen (then French zone) in advance of the French physicist Yves Rocard. Alsos was part of the Manhattan Project, which was designed to assess the progress of the Nazi atomic bomb project. In the book Alsos published in 1947, Goudsmit concludes that the Germans did not get close to creating a weapon. He attributed this to the inability of science to function under a totalitarian state and that the German scientists simply did not understand how to make an atomic bomb. Both of these conclusions have been disputed by later historians (see Heisenberg), and the fact that the totalitarian Soviet state produced the bomb shortly after the book's release.

After the war he was briefly a professor at Northwestern University and from 1948-1970 was a senior scientist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, chairing the Physics Department 1952-1960. He meanwhile became well known as the Editor-in-chief of the leading physics journal Physical Review, published by the American Physical Society. In July 1958 he started the journal Physical Review Letters.[6] On his retirement as editor in 1974, Goudsmit moved to the faculty of the University of Nevada in Reno, where he remained until his death four years later.

He also made some scholarly contributions to Egyptology published in Expedition, Summer 1972, pp. 13–16 ; American Journal of Archaeology 78, 1974 p. 78; and Journal of Near Eastern Studies 40, 1981 pp. 43–46. The Samuel A. Goudsmit Collection of Egyptian Antiquities resides at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[7]



  1. ^ G.E. Uhlenbeck and S. Goudsmit, Naturwissenschaften 13(47) (1925) 953.
  2. ^ Goldhaber, Maurice (April 1979). "Obituary: Samuel A. Goudsmit". Physics Today 32 (4): 71–72. Bibcode:1979PhT....32d..71G. doi:10.1063/1.2995511. 
  3. ^ Benjamin Bederson, 2008, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit 1902 — 1978, Biographical Memoir, National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, 29 pp
  4. ^ Samuel Goudsmit at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Asimov. Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (2nd revised ed.). 
  6. ^ "Samuel A. Goudsmit Papers, 1921-1979". Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  7. ^ Description of Goudsmit's contribution to the museum

External links[edit]