Skip to Content

Notes on the History of the Department of Physics 1878-1971

Russell J. Donnelly

Physics first appeared in the curriculum in the Catalog of 1878 -1879. A Department of Physics was established when the Board of Regents adopted a report of its Special Committee to reorganize the faculty and course of study, July 23, 1895.

When the College of Literature, Science and the Arts was approved by the Board of Regents February 6, 1900, a Department of Physics was included in the College.

Following the report of its Curricula Committee March 7, 1932, the Board of Higher Education placed Physics in the lower division of the University curriculum. Oregon State College had the higher division. When the Lower Division and Service Departments was established by the Board of Higher Education April 16, 1934, the Department of Physics was placed in this Department.

By action of the Board of Higher Education, October 28, 1941, Physics was returned to major status at the University, and after the establishment of the College of Liberal Arts January 27, 1942, the Department of Physics became part of the College.

On January 17, 1977 the College of Liberal Arts was renamed the College of Arts and Sciences. The Department of Physics remained in the College.

Originally the University of Oregon offered Natural Philosophy. This was taught by Professor Mark Bailey and later by Professor George H. Collier. The other physics related courses were Astronomy, Mechanics and Acoustics and Optics. In 1879 two more were added, Magnetism and Hydrostatics.

From 1880 to 1893 Mechanics, Physics and Optics were taught for three successive terms of the junior year.

In 1895 Professor Collier was voted into emeritus status and was replaced by Charles Friedel. Curriculum revision was made under the direction of Charles H. Chapman, President of the University and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University (Mathematics). The courses now were four (astronomy was still offered): Elementary Physics, Advanced Physics, Advanced Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism. These courses continued up to 1900.

A continuing demand for improved lab equipment was eased somewhat with the addition of a course called Practical Mechanics. In this class students were able to construct new apparatus to be used in teaching physics. The first lab was established in 1879 at the University of Oregon. This was eight years after Harvard commenced a laboratory with physics. Some $2000 was expended for the lab equipment. This is a surprisingly large and generous sum, considering the size and poverty of the University. However, this equipment was not for student use but was intended for lecture demonstrations. The purchase of the apparatus was a mistake because the infant university and Board of Regents did not have any knowledge of what was modern. Queen Grey and Co., of Philadelphia unloaded some surplus, outdated, lab equipment at an excessive price. At least the spirit of the Regents was correct. In 1897 more equipment was purchased – modern equipment -upon the urging of Chapman and a small sum given over by the regents for the purchase. (Collier had been fired because he refused to have anything to do with labs. He felt the lecture and textbook approach was all that was necessary. His education, of course, dated from the period prior to any labs in American higher education.) A workshop was established to repair equipment. Students in Physics did the repair work under the direction of Friedel. This proved to be a valuable aid to the continuation of physics labs and it expanded the basic knowledge of students on how to make their own equipment.

Under Friedel the curriculum expanded. The following courses were offered making twenty-two hours of credit in total: Elementary Physics, Advanced Experimental Physics, Introductory Mathematical Physics, Advanced Mathematical Physics, Theory of Sound, Elementary Laboratory Physics, Electrical Standards, Geometrical Optics, Mathematical Theory of Electricity, Fourier’s Theory of Heat, Advanced Laboratory Physics and Photometry.

In 1903 William P. Boynton came to the University to replace Freidel who took a leave of absence. Upon Friedel’s return Boynton remained as Assistant Professor of Physics, becoming Department head and full professor when Friedel resigned in 1906. It was a one-person department again until 1914 when Albert E. Caswell was appointed to the University and the Department of Physics. Up to 1920, Caswell, Boynton and one student assistant comprised the faculty.

From 1905 to 1920 the curriculum was Elementary Physics, General Physics, Physical Measurements, Analytical Mechanics, Mathematical Theory of Electricity and Magnetism, Electrical Measurements, Thermodynamics, Molecular Physics, Theory of Light, Harmonic Motion, Advanced Undergraduate Laboratory Work, Advanced Mathematical Physics, Advanced Laboratory and Research Seminar. Some additions were made to this basic list of courses through this period of 15 years. They were Heat, Meteorology, Physical Technics (probably techniques), Sound, History of Physics, Teaching of Physics, Light, Selected Topics.

A brief description of these courses follows:

  • General Physics was “open to those who have completed elementary physics and trigonometry. This course and the following are required in the Sophomore year in the Engineering Course, and are recommended to those intending to be teachers of science.”
  • Mathematical Theory: “The course introduces the student to the development and representation of the more important principles of Physics by the aid of the powerful analytical methods of mathematics.”
  • Physical measurements was a laboratory course to accompany General Physics.
  • Thermodynamics was “a course on the theory of heat as applied to ideal gases, saturated vapors, and other simple types of substances, introductory to the study of the steam engine.”
  • Mechanics was “a nonmathematical experimental presentation of the principal facts of the mechanics of solids, liquids, and gases.”
  • Heat was “a study of thermometry and calorimetry, with introduction to the theory of solutions and to the kinetic theory in its application to gases and liquids, and thermodynamics.”
  • Light: “a study of the more important phenomena of reflection, refraction, interference, diffraction, polarization of light, based upon a preliminary general discussion of wave motion.”
  • Electricity and Magnetism: “The fundamental facts and the theories, and their relation to modern applications such as the transmission of power, and intelligence, methods of measurements, recent theories of matter, etc.”
  • Selected Topics consisted of “a series of experimental lectures on topics of interest such as Sound and its application to the study of music, the gyroscope, wireless telegraphy, radio-activity, etc.
  • Sound: “more extended treatment than that given in the general courses, intended especially for students of music… Considerable attention is given to the scientific basis of harmony and music, and to the Physics of musical instruments.”
  • Meteorology: “a study of the physics of the atmosphere, including the use of meteorological instruments, the study of air and ocean currents, the distribution of temperature and moisture, the study of weather reports and maps, and some practice in forecasting.”
  • Physical Technics concerned “the construction, adjustment, repair and manipulation of physical apparatus, including a study of home made apparatus for high school laboratories, the elements of glass working, etc.”
  • Light and Color which was added in 1918 dealt with “a study of some of the problems of illumination and color; of particular interest to the architect.”
  • The course called Applications of Electricity and Magnetism was “a study of electric circuits as used for signalling, or transmission and control of power, and of the fundamentals of direct current machinery. There will also be a brief statement of alternating currents, and of electric waves and their application to wireless telegraphy.”

In 1901-02 the catalog records that gas, water and electricity were furnished for both lecture tables and laboratory. There were three rooms devoted to the physical sciences. In 1907 additions were made to the equipment – including new cases for apparatus and an apparatus for the determination of the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat.

By 1911 the physical laboratories occupied both the basement and first floor of Deady Hall. The equipment for all types of experiments was made available. In 1915 small research rooms were acquired for students doing research projects. In addition there was a battery and switchboard room as a center of circuits to all parts of the building. (Later this was moved to the basement of Pacific Hall, but there is no record of it ever being used.) By 1920 the Department of Physics labs were very well equipped. James A. Pruett joined the faculty in 1920.

In 1920 the University of Oregon Graduate School was really started. Various Departments were, through the decade of the 20’s given authority to offer graduate degrees through the Ph. D.

From 1920 on the curriculum begins to get larger and more complex. By 1920 the curriculum was fairly standard throughout the institutions of higher education in the U. S. During the period of consolidation (the invention of the State System 1929 – ) the courses in Physics are reduced to a very few lower division courses. The faculty was likewise reduced. McAlister was transferred to Oregon State College, while Boynton left. This couple, Norris and Caswell, then made up the department until the State Board allowed the return of Science as a major to the U of 0 (with great thanks to Donald Erb, President of the University) and by 1943 the department expanded faculty and offerings. The quality of the faculty was not high because of the war. But the intent was there and the growth of post WWI was anticipated albeit not to the extent that it did occur.

The first Ph. D. given by the Department of Physics was in 1932. Hilbert J. Unger, B. A. Reed, 1928 was the individual awarded the Ph. D.

FACULTY AND STAFF 1876 to 1946

In the following are listed the faculty, graduate assistants and research fellows etc. from 1876 to 1946.

  • Mark Bailey 1876 – 1895, Professor (Taught physics one year) AB 1848, AM 1851, Brown.
  • George Collier 1879 – 1895, Professor. AB 1853, MA 1856, Oberlin. (Collier Glacier on the Three Sisters is named for him.)
  • Charles Friedel 1895-1906,Professor. AB. University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. 1895 University of Leipzig.
  • William Pingry Boynton 1903-1931, Assistant to full Professor. AB, MA 1893, Dartmouth. Phi Beta Kappa. Ph.D. 1897, Clark. Extensive publication record. Department Head 1906-31. In 1904 Boynton published a sophisticated textbook Applications of the Kinetic theory to Gases, Vapors, Pure Liquids, and the Theory of Solutions (McMillan) which he states was begun as a course of lectures given at the University of California during the academic years 1898-1901.
  • Albert E. Caswell 1914-1932, from Assistant to full Professor. AB 1908, PhD 1911, Stanford. Sigma Xi. National Research Fellow 1919-1920. Moderate publication record. Taught at OSU 1932-1934, back at UO 1934. Department Head 1934-1949. Recently William Edward Caswell, a third generation physicist, was killed in the plane which crashed into the Pentagon September 11.
  • James A. Pruett 1920-1921 Graduate assistant. AB 1911, McMinnville College (Linfield now). Graduate student at University of Chicago 1915-1916.
  • Arthur Bramley 1921-1922 Graduate assistant. BA 1922 U of 0. One of the most outstanding graduates of the Physics Department in its early days and donor of a fund now in the department.
  • Troy A. Phipps 1922-24, graduate assistant. BA 1922, U of 0.
  • Walter H. Brattain 1924-1926 graduate assistant. BS 1924 Whitman, MS 1926 U of 0. Nobel Prize, 1956.
  • Edward D. McAlister 1925-26 graduate assistant, Assistant Professor 1928-31. BA 1923 U of 0, MA 1925 Oregon, PhD, Berkeley 1928. Moved to OSU 1931.
  • Leonard D. Neuman 1925-26 graduate assistant. BS in EE 1923 U of Montana.
  • Herbert L. Jones 1925-1926 graduate assistant. BA 1926 Oregon.
  • Herschel E. Hewitt 1926-1927 Teaching Fellow. BA 1904, Grand Island College.
  • Evan G. Lapham 1926-1927 graduate assistant. BA 1926 Oregon.
  • Bruce E. Foster 1927-1929 graduate assistant. AB 1927 Colorado College.
  • Charles A. Goodwin 1927 – 1930 graduate assistant, Teaching Fellow 1930-32. G.S. Oregon State College.
  • Hubert J. Yearian 1927-1929 graduate assistant. BS 1927 Oregon.
  • Beatrice A. Mason 1928-29 graduate assistant. BA Oregon 1928, MA 1929 Oregon.
  • Hilbert J. Unger 1928-30 graduate assistant, Teaching Fellow 1930-32. BA Reed, PhD 1932 Oregon. (First University of Oregon Ph. D. in Physics).
  • Robert F. Jackson 1929-30 Research Assistant. BA 1929 Oregon. (Rhodes Scholar).
  • Eric Peterson 1929-32 graduate assistant. Assistant Professor 1942 -. BS 1929, MS 1931, Oregon; Ph.D. 1935 Purdue.
  • Will V. Norris 1930-31 Assistant Professor; Associate Professor 1931-34; Professor 1934-. AB 1918.
  • William Jewell MS 1920 Texas Christian University, EM 1921 Colorado School of Mines, ScD 1922 Colorado School of Mines.
  • E. Hobart Collins 1941 – Instructor. AB 1921, William Jewell, MS 1923, Ph.D. 1928, Iowa.
  • Merle A. Starr 1939 – Instructor. BA 1933 Reed, MA 1937, Ph.D. 1937, U of C, Berkeley.
  • Lyman A. Webb 1943-46 Graduate assistant. BA Oregon.
  • Gordon Bailey 1943 – 44 Graduate assistant. BS Oregon
  • Robert N. Little 1943 – 45 Assistant Professor. BA 1935, MA 1942, Ph.D. 1943 Rice.
  • Albert R. Poole 1943- 45 Assistant Professor. BA 1929, MA 1931, U of British Columbia, Ph. D. 1935 Minnesota.
  • Stanley E. Rauch 1943 – 45 Assistant Professor. BS 1937 Reed, MS 1939 Washington, Ph. D. 1941, Stanford.
  • Leslie E. Wilson 1943- 45 Assistant Professor. AB 1922 Stanford, BS 1926 Washington, EM 1927, Colorado School of Mines.
  • Ralph G. Bailey 1943-45 Instructor. BA 1928, MA 1934 Iowa, D. ED. 1939 Oregon.
  • Daniel H. Koch 1943-45 Instructor. BA 1941 Albany College, B.Ed. 1943 Oregon.
  • Frank H. Krasnowsky 1943-45 Instructor. AB 1943 U of C Berkeley.
  • George Lienkaenper 1943-45 Instructor. BA 1929 Oregon.
  • Stanley Minshall 1943 – 45 Instructor. BS 1941 Oregon
  • Clarence W. Strong 1943 – 45 Instructor. BS 1943 Oregon.
  • Robert M. Fristron 1944 – 45 Graduate assistant. BA Oregon.

FACULTY AND STAFF 1945 to 1971

After World War II the Department began to grow. Here are the faculty from 1945 by rank.

  • 1945-46
    • Caswell (on leave)
    • Norris
    • Collins
    • Peterson
  • 1946-47
    • Caswell, Norris, (Professors)
    • Ebbighausen (Associate Professor)
  • 1947-48
    • Caswell, Norris (Professors)
    • Ebbighausen, Peterson (Associate Professors)
    • Starr (Assistant Professor)
  • 1948-49
    • Caswell, Norris (Professors)
    • Cooper, Ebbighausen, Paul (Associate Professors)
  • 1949-50
    • Ellickson, Caswell (retired), Norris (Professors)
    • Ebbighausen, Paul (Associate Professors)
    • Ames (Assistant Professor)
  • 1950-51
    • Ellickson (Head), Norris (Professors)
    • Ch’en, Ebbighausen (Associate Professors)
    • Dart, Hoyt (Assistant Professors)
  • 1951-52
    • Ellickson (Head), Norris (Professors)
    • Ch’en, Ebbighausen (Associate Professors)
    • Dart, Hoyt (Assistant professors)
  • 1952-53
    • Ellickson (Head), Norris (Professors)
    • Ch’en, Ebbighausen (Associate Professors)
    • Dart, Hoyt (Assistant professors)
  • 1953-54
    • Ellickson (Head), Norris (Professors)
    • Ch’en, Ebbighausen (Associate Professors)
    • Dart, Hoyt (Assistant professors)
  • 1954-55
    • Ellickson (Head) (Professor)
    • Ch’en, Ebbighausen (Associate Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart, Goldburg, Hoyt (Assistant Professors)
  • 1955-56
    • Ellickson (Head) Ch’en (Professors)
    • Ebbighausen (Associate Professor)
    • Crasemann, Dart, Goldberg, McClure (Assistant Professors)
  • 1956-57
    • Ellickson (Head) Ch’en (Professors)
    • Dart, Ebbighausen, Powell (Associate Professors)
    • Crasemann, Easterday, Goldberg, McClure (Assistant Professors)
  • 1957-58
    • Ellickson (Head) Ch’en (Professors)
    • Dart, Ebbighausen, Powell (Associate Professors)
    • Atwater, Crasemann, Easterday, (Assistant Professors)
  • 1958-59
    • Ellickson (Head), Ch’en, Ebbighausen, Powell (Professors)
    • Dart (Associate Professor)
    • Crasemann, Easterday, Valk (Assistant Professors)
  • 1959-60
    • Ellickson (Chair), Ch’en, Ebbighausen, Powell (Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart (Associate Professor)
    • Easterday, Valk (Assistant Professors)
  • 1960-61
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Ellickson, Ebbighausen, (Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart (Associate Professor)
    • Easterday, Zankel (Assistant Professors)
  • 1961-62
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Ellickson, Ebbighausen, Wannier(Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart, McClure (Associate Professor)
    • Kemp, Lefevre, Wells, Zankel (Assistant Professors)
  • 1962-63
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Ellickson, Ebbighausen, Wannier(Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart, Hrostowski, McClure (Associate Professor)
    • Kemp, Lefevre, Wells, Zankel, (Assistant Professors)
  • 1963-64
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Ellickson, Ebbighausen, Wannier(Professors)
    • Crasemann, Dart, Hrostowski, McClure (Associate Professor)
    • Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Wells, Zankel (Assistant Professors)
  • 1964-65
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Wannier (Professors)
    • Dart, Hrostowski, McClure (Associate Professor)
    • Girardeau, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Wells (Assistant Professors)
  • 1965-66
    • Powell (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Wannier (Professors)
    • Dart, Hrostowski, McClure (Associate Professor)
    • Girardeau, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Wells (Assistant Professors)
  • 1966-67
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Wannier (Professors)
    • Girardeau, Kemp, McClure (Associate Professors)
    • Higgins, Lefevre, McDaniels, Wells (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)
  • 1967-68
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, McCarthy,
    • McClure, Powell ,Wannier (Professors)
    • Girardeau, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels (Associate Professors)
    • Higgins, Park, Wells, Zimmerman (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)
  • 1968-69
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Girardeau, McClure, Moravcsik, Powell , Wannier (Professors)
    • Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels (Associate Professors)
    • Csonka, Higgins, Mahan, Park, Rayfield, Zimmerman (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)
  • 1969-70
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Girardeau, McCarthy, McClure, Moravcsik, Powell , Wannier (Professors)
    • Goswami, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Mahan, Matthews, Overley, Rayfield (Associate Professors)
    • Csonka, Higgins, Park, Zimmerman (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)
  • 1970-71
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Ellickson, Girardeau, McCarthy, McClure, Moravcsik, Powell , Wannier (Professors) Goswami, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Mahan, Matthews, Overley, Rayfield (Associate Professors)
    • Csonka, Higgins, Park, Zimmerman (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)
  • 1971-72
    • Donnelly (Head), Ch’en, Crasemann, Dart, Ebbighausen, Girardeau, McClure, Moravcsik, Powell , Wannier (Professors)
    • Goswami, Higgins, Kemp, Lefevre, McDaniels, Mahan, Matthews, Overley, Rayfield (Associate Professors)
    • Csonka, Higgins, Lowndes, Park, Zimmerman (Assistant Professors)
    • Burg, Radostitz (Instructors)