Robert Millikan

By: Caliph Mills

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Early Life

Robert Andrews Millikan was born on the 22nd of March, 1868, in Morrison, Illinois, as the second son of the Reverend Silas Franklin Millikan and Mary Jane Andrews. His grandparents were of the Old New England stock which had come to America before 1750, and were pioneer settlers in the Middle West. He led a rural existence in childhood, attending the Maquoketa High School in Iowa. After working for a short time as a court reporter, he entered Oberlin College (Ohio) in 1886. During his undergraduate course his favorite subjects were Greek and mathematics; but after his graduation in 1891 he took, for two years, a teaching post in elementary physics. It was during this period that he developed his interest in the subject in which he was later to excel. In 1893, after obtaining his mastership in physics, he was appointed Fellow in Physics at Columbia University. He afterwards received his Ph.D. (1895) for research on the polarization of light emitted by incandescent surfaces.

Discoveries

As a scientist, Millikan made numerous momentous discoveries, mainly in the fields of electricity, optics, and molecular physics. His earliest major success was the accurate determination of the charge carried by an electron, using the "falling-drop method"; he also proved that this quantity was a constant for all electrons, thus demonstrating the atomic structure of electricity. Next, he verified experimentally Einstein's all-important photoelectric equation, and made the first direct photoelectric determination of Planck's constant H. In addition his studies of the Brownian movements in gases put an end to all opposition to the atomic and kinetic theories of matter.

Later Life & Fun Facts

Throughout his life Millikan remained a prolific author, making numerous contributions to scientific journals. He was not only a foremost scientist, but his religious and philosophic nature was evident from his lectures on the reconciliation of science and religion, and from his books: Science and Life(1924); Evolution in Science and Religion (1927); Science and the New Civilization (1930); Time, Matter, and Values (1932). Shortly before his death he published Electrons (+ and –), Protons, Photons, Neutrons, Mesotrons, and Cosmic Rays. Millikan was an enthusiastic tennis player, and golf was also one of his recreations. Millikan married Greta Erwin Blanchard in 1902; they had three sons: Clark Blanchard, Glenn Allen, and Max Franklin. He died on the 19th of December, 1953, in San Marino, California.
Robert Andrews Millikan
Millikan Oil Drop Experiment
Robert Millikan Rap