Wood, Robert Williams

Wood, Robert Williams,

1868–1955, American physicist, b. Concord, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1891). After studying abroad he became associated with Johns Hopkins as professor of experimental physics in 1901, professor emeritus in 1938, and later research professor. Internationally known for his work in optics and spectroscopy, he made important researches in resonance radiation and in the use of absorption screens in astronomical photography and devised a vastly improved diffraction grating. He also developed a color-photography process, originated the method of thawing street mains by passing an electric current through them, and studied the biological and physiological effects of high-frequency sound waves. He wrote Physical Optics (1905) and Researches in Physical Optics (2 parts, 1913–19). Wood was also the author of The Man Who Rocked the Earth (with Arthur Train, 1915) and nonsense verse, How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers (rev. ed. 1917).


See biography by W. Seabrook (1941).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wood, Robert Williams


Born May 2, 1868, in Concord, Mass.; died Aug. 11, 1955, in Amityville, N. Y. American experimental physicist.

Wood graduated from Harvard University in 1891. From 1901 to 1938 he was a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His major works were in the field of physical optics. He discovered (1902) and investigated optical resonance. He discovered the resonance radiation of mercury vapors in the ultraviolet region and discovered and studied the polarization of resonance radiation and its dependence on a magnetic field. With these works Wood laid the basis for the theory of atomic and molecular spectra. He was the first to make a glass light filter which allowed the passage of ultraviolet rays but was opaque to visible light, and he photographed the moon in ultraviolet light..His work served as the foundation for ultraviolet and infrared photography. Wood perfected the diffraction grating. He also investigated ultrasonic vibrations and their effect on solid and liquid bodies. Wood was an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1930).


Physical Optics. New York, 1905. (Second edition, New York, 1911; third edition, New York, 1934.)
Researches in Physical Optics, vols. 1-2. New York, 1913-19.
In Russian translation:
Fizicheskaia optika. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.


Seabrook, W. Robert Vil’iams Vud. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. (Translated from English; contains a bibliography of Wood’s works.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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