Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Science Stars Who Graduated from Central

Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, and Marie Curie are all Nobel Prize laureates in physics. So are two graduates of Madison Central High School. Perhaps there's another high school that can boast its alumni have been awarded not one, not two, but three Nobel Prizes in Physics, but I'm still waiting to hear its name.

John Hasbrouk van Vleck graduated in 1916, when Central was still named Madison High School. In 1977, Van Vleck shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Philip Warren Anderson and Sir Nevill Francis Mott. It was awarded for "for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems."

John Bardeen, who graduated from Madison Central High School in 1923, is the only person to win the Nobel Prize for Physics twice. In 1956, Bardeen, whose father, Charles Russell Bardeen, was the founder of the Medical School at the University of Wisconsin, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Walter Houser Brattain and William Bradford Shockley. It was awarded for "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect." In 1972, Bardeen shared The Nobel Prize in Physics with Leon Neil Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer. It was awarded for "for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity, usually called the BCS-theory."

Karl Guthe Jansky also graduated from Madison Central High School in 1923. Although not a Nobel Prize winner, he to made important contributions to science. In 1932, he discovered that the Milky Way emanates radio waves. This discovery of radio waves from an extraterrestrial source laid the foundations for the study of radio astronomy. In recognition of this discovery, the unit used by radio astronomers for the strength (or flux density) of radio sources is called the jansky (symbolic form, Jy). The jansky is equal to one-hundredth of one-trillionth of a trillionth of a watt per square meter per hertz.


Note: The three protraits accompanying this post are from the 1917 and 1923 editions of the Tychoberahn.

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