Millikan, Robert Andrews

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Millikan, Robert Andrews

(mĭl`ĭkən), 1868–1953, American physicist and educator, b. Morrison, Ill., grad. Oberlin College, 1891, Ph.D. Columbia, 1895, studied in Germany. He taught (1896–1921) physics at the Univ. of Chicago and from 1921 to 1945 was chairman of the executive council of the California Institute of Technology and director of the Norman Bridge Laboratory there. The 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded him for his measurement of the charge on the electron and for his work on the photoelectric effectphotoelectric effect,
emission of electrons by substances, especially metals, when light falls on their surfaces. The effect was discovered by H. R. Hertz in 1887. The failure of the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation to explain it helped lead to the development of
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. He also made important studies of cosmic rays (which he named), X rays, and physical and electric constants and wrote and lectured on the reconciliation of science and religion. His books include Science and Life (1924), Evolution in Science and Religion (1927; 7th printing with addition, 1949), Science and the New Civilization (1930), Time, Matter, and Values (1932), and Electrons (+ and −), Protons, Photons, Neutrons, Mesotrons, and Cosmic Rays (rev. ed. 1947; 1st ed. with title The Electron, 1917; enl. ed. 1935).


See his autobiography (1950).

Millikan, Robert Andrews


Born Mar. 22, 1868, in Morrison, 111.; died Dec. 19, 1953, in San Marino, Calif. American physicist.

Millikan graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1891 and received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1895. In 1895–96 he worked at the Universities of Berlin and Gottingen; in 1896 he began working at the University of Chicago. During World War I (1914–18) he was vice-chairman of the National Research Council and developed meteorological instruments and devices for detecting submarines. From 1921 to 1945 he was the director of the Norman Bridge Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He made a precise measurement of the charge on an electron using a method that he had developed. He experimentally verified Einstein’s equation for the photoelectric effect and was the first directly to determine the numerical value of Planck’s constant (1912–15). He developed the method of atomic spectroscopy in the far ultraviolet region. He studied cosmic rays by means of an ionization chamber. He received the Nobel Prize in 1923.


Science and Life. Boston-Chicago, 1924.
Evolution in Science and Religion. New Haven, 1927.
In Russian translation:
Uchebnik fiziki, parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933–36.
Elementy fiziki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Elektron. Edited by S. I. Vavilov. Moscow, 1925.
Elektrony (+ i—), protony, fotony, neitrony i kosmicheskie luchi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.


Nobel Lectures Including Presentation Speeches and Laureates’ Biographies: Physics, 1922–1941. Amsterdam, 1965.
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Both had used their fame to advance the cause of socialism - to the distress of Robert Millikan, the president of Caltech, who thought Einstein was politically naive and was being ``exploited'' by various people, some of them ``the Charlie Chaplin type'' and some ``the Upton Sinclair type'' - especially the latter.
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