William Francis Gray Swann

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William Francis Gray Swann (August 29, 1884 – January 29, 1962) was an Anglo-American physicist.[1]


He was educated at Brighton Technical College and the Royal College of Science from which he obtained a B.Sc. in 1905. He worked as an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, while simultaneously pursuing a doctorate at University College London, from which he received a D.Sc. in 1910.[2]


Swann left Sheffield in 1913, when he went to the United States to join the Carnegie Institute, becoming head of the Physical Division of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. He later became a professor at the University of Minnesota, then at the University of Chicago and Yale University. E. O. Lawrence, the 1939 Nobel Laureate in Physics, was one of Swann's graduate students at the University of Minnesota.[3]

In 1924 Swann was an Invited Speaker of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto.[4] In 1927 at the age of 43, he became the first director of the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute. Among his first acts as Director was to arrange a contract to locate the Foundation at Swarthmore College, which is fairly close to Philadelphia. He continued as Director of the Foundation until his retirement in 1959, when he was replaced by Martin A. Pomerantz.[5][6]

He is particularly noted for his research into cosmic rays and high-energy physics. He produced over 250 publications, including his influential, popular book The Architecture of the Universe (in 1934).


The crater Swann on the Moon is named after him.

Other interests[edit]

In addition to being a physicist, he was also known as an accomplished cellist and he founded the Swarthmore Symphony Orchestra. He retired in 1959.


He died in 1962 in Swarthmore.


  1. ^ "Obituary: W. F. G. Swann". Physics Today. 15 (4): 106–107. April 1962. doi:10.1063/1.3058111.
  2. ^ "William Francis Gray Swann Papers", webpage of the American Philosophical Society archived at Webcite from this original URL on 2008-05-03.
  3. ^ "Lawrence -- The Man, His Lab, His Legacy"
  4. ^ Swann, W. F. G. "A generalization of electrodynamics, consistent with restricted relativity and affording a possible explanation of the earth's magnetic and gravitational fields and the maintenance of the earth's charge". In: Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Toronto, August 11–16. 1924. vol. 2. pp. 257–296.
  5. ^ Giardinelli, Alisa (2004). "A Dream Deferred," Swarthmore College Bulletin, March 2004. Webpage archived at WebCite from this original URL on 2008-03-09.
  6. ^ Rowland-Perry, Sherry L. (2005). "The Bartol Research Institute: A Brief History," webpage of The Bartol Research Institute archived at WebCite from this original URL on 2008-03-09.

Further reading[edit]