David M. Dennison

David M. Dennison
David Dennison, 1963 at Copenhagen

David Mathias Dennison (1900 in Oberlin, Ohio – April 3, 1976) was an American physicist who made contributions to quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, and the physics of molecular structure.

Contents

Education

In 1917, Dennison entered Swarthmore College, where he graduated in 1921. He then went to the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, for graduate studies in physics with Walter F. Colby and Oskar Klein. Klein, already associated with the Kaluza-Klein theory (1921), joined the faculty at Michigan in 1922, after a six-year stay at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, under Niels Bohr, at the University of Copenhagen.[1] It was through Klein that Dennison heard and leaned much about the current theoretical physics being developed in Europe, which created a yearning in him to go to Copenhagen for further study. Dennison’s thesis was on the molecular structure and infrared spectrum of the methane molecule,[2] and he was awarded his doctorate in 1924.[3] [4] [5]

From 1924 to 1926, Dennison had an International Education Board (IEB) Fellowship to do postgraduate study and research in Europe. By the end of that time, Harrison McAllister Randall, chairman of physics department at the University of Michigan, had arranged for Dennison to stay in Europe another year on a University of Michigan fellowship. Dennison arrived at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, in October 1924.[6] During his three years in Europe, he mostly did postdoctoral research in Copenhagen, where he had associations with other visiting physicists working there, such as Paul Dirac, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Werner Heisenberg, Walter Heitler, Ralph H. Fowler, Friedrich Hund, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Yoshio Nishina, Wolfgang Pauli, and George Eugene Uhlenbeck. In the last half of 1925, Heisenberg and Max Born published their matrix mechanics formulation of quantum mechanics. In the fall of 1926 he went to the University of Zurich to study and work with Erwin Schrödinger, who had early in the year published his papers on his wave mechanics formulation of quantum mechanics. In early spring of 1927, Dennison went back to Copenhagen, and in late spring he went to the University of Cambridge to work with Ralph Fowler for six weeks – there at the time were Ernest Rutherford, Nevill Francis Mott, Pyotr Kapitsa, Patrick Blackett, and John Cockcroft. The last few weeks of his fellowship were spent at the University of Leiden with Paul Ehrenfest.[4] [5]

In 1925, George Eugene Uhlenbeck and Samuel Abraham Goudsmit had proposed spin, and Wolfgang Pauli had proposed the Pauli exclusion principle. In 1926, Enrico Fermi and Paul Dirac introduced Fermi-Dirac statistics. While at Cambridge, Dennison used quantum mechanicals calculations on molecular hydrogen to show that protons, like electrons, were subject to Fermi-Dirac statistics, or had spin-½, and therefore obeyed the Pauli exclusion principle.[7] [8]

Career

In 1927, upon Dennison’s return from Europe, he started his life-long career at the University of Michigan until 1976.[9] Otto Laporte had arrived at Michigan in 1926, and George Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit arrived in 1927. These four men were a team in developing theoretical physics, including quantum mechanics, for many years. They had been brought there by the chairman of the physics department, Harrison McAllister Randall, to build the theoretical capabilities of the department.[10] [5]

The David M. Dennison Building on the campus of the University of Michigan was named in his honor.

Selected Literature

  • David M. Dennison The Molecular Structure and Infra-Red Spectrum of Methane, The Astrophysical Journal 62 84 (1925)
  • David M. Dennison The Rotation of Molecules, Phys. Rev. 28 (2) 318 - 333 (1926). Institute for Theoretical Physics, Copenhagen, Denmark, Received 27 April 1926.
  • David M. Dennison A Note on the Specific Heat of the Hydrogen Molecule Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical and Physical Character Vol. 115, No. 771 pp. 483-486 (1927). Communicated by R. H. Fowler; received 3 June 1927.
  • David M. Dennison The Infrared Spectra of Polyatomic Molecules Part I, Rev. Mod. Phys. 3 (2) 280 - 345 (1931). University of Michigan.
  • David M. Dennison The Infra-Red Spectra of Polyatomic Molecules. Part II, Rev. Mod. Phys. 12 (3) 175 - 214 (1940). University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • David M. Dennison, Recollections of Physics and of Physicists During the 1920s, Am. J. Phys. 42 1051-1056 (1974)

References

  • Kragh, Helge Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, fifth printing and first paperback printing, 2002) ISBN 0-691-01206-7
  • Max Jammer The Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill, 1966)

Notes

  1. ^ In 1926, while at the University of Michigan, Kline would publish on the Klein-Gordon equation. In that year, he returned to the University of Copenhagen for five years. Working with Yoshio Nishina there, he would publish on the Klein-Nishina formula in 1929.
  2. ^ Doctoral thesis, 1924, University of Michigan: David M. Dennison The Molecular Structure and Infra-Red Spectrum of Methane, The Astrophysical Journal 62 84 (1925).
  3. ^ Kragh, 2002, p. 160
  4. ^ a b David M. Dennison, Recollections of Physics and of Physicists During the 1920s, Am. J. Phys. 42 1051-1056 (1974)
  5. ^ a b c Author Catalog: Dennison – American Philosophical Society
  6. ^ Duncan and Janssen – Anthony Duncan and Michel Janssen On the verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the Correspondence principle. Part One. p. 14.
  7. ^ Jammer, 1966, p. 343.
  8. ^ David M. Dennison A Note on the Specific Heat of the Hydrogen Molecule Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical and Physical Character Vol. 115, No. 771 pp. 483-486 (1927). Communicated by R. H. Fowler; received 3 June 1927.
  9. ^ Instructor 1927-1928, Assistant Professor 1928-1930, and Associate Professor starting in 1930.
  10. ^ Otto Laporte – National Academy of Sciences Press

External links


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