Electron Scattering and Diffraction
Clinton Joseph Davisson (1881–1958) was born in Bloomington, Illinois.1 He enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1902 after graduating from the public high school. Before finishing his Bachelor of Science degree, however, he was hired as a part-time physics instructor by Princeton University. During his time at Princeton, he was able to complete the requirements for his undergraduate degree by returning to Chicago during summer sessions. He eventually earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1911, writing a dissertation under the guidance of O.W. Richardson On The Thermal Emission of Positive Ions From Alkaline Earth Salts. Davisson then went on to serve as an instructor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburg until 1917, when he moved to the Western Electric Company (later Bell Telephone Laboratories) in New York City. This industrial research position, which initially consisted in war-related work, eventually provided Davisson with the freedom to do scientific research which he lacked in his previous academic appointment. While at Western Electric, Davisson studied the ejection of electrons from metals by heat (thermionic emission) and by bombardment with other electrons. This latter research program eventually led to his famous work, in collaboration with Lester Germer, for which Davisson was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1937. The famous Davisson-Germer experiment is described in the reading selection below. It begins with a short introduction by the editor of the Bell System Technical Journal, in which the article was published in 1928.