Encyclopedia of Continuum Mechanics

Living Edition
| Editors: Holm Altenbach, Andreas Öchsner

Bridgman, Percy Williams

  • Holm AltenbachEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-53605-6_326-1

Percy Williams Bridgman (April 21st, 1882 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.; †August 20th, 1961 in Randolph, New Hampshire, U.S.A.) was a physicist who received the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Open image in new window Percy Williams Bridgman (with permission of the AIP’s Emilio Segre Visual Archives)

Early Years and Education

Percy Williams Bridgman was born as the child of Raymond Landon Bridgman, a newspaper reporter, and Mary Ann Maria Williams. He attended the primary and the high school in Auburndale, one of 13 villages within the city of Newton (close to Cambridge). Since 1900 he studied physics at Harvard University.

Scientific Achievements and Professional Career

In 1905 he started his research on the influence of high pressure on materials and their thermodynamic behavior. Observing a malfunction of his pressure apparatus, he changed the design, and as a result, he could realize pressure higher than 10 GPa (up to this moment, the limit was 0.3 GPa). With this new equipment, he investigated the influence of the pressure on the compressibility, the electrical resistance, the heat conductivity, the tensile strength, and the viscosity of different materials. He had a great influence on the constitutive behavior modeling (Bridgman, 1952).

In 1908 Bridgman finished his PhD in physics at Harvard University. He spent his scientific and professional career up to 1954 (the year of his retirement) at Harvard: from 1910 as a lecturer, from 1913 as an assistant professor, and from 1919 as a full professor. In 1926 he was appointed as Hollis professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. From 1950 he was Higgins University Professor.


Percy Williams Bridgman received the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures (for the development of an apparatus producing extremely high pressure and discoveries in the field of high-pressure physics).

Bridgman received doctors honoris causa from Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) in 1934, Harvard University in 1939, Brooklyn Polytechnic (New York) in 1941, Princeton University in 1950, Sorbonne (Paris) in 1950, and Yale (New Haven, Connecticut) in 1951. He received the Bingham Medal (1951) from the Society of Rheology, the Rumford Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1919), the Elliott Cresson Medal (1932) from the Franklin Institute, the Gold Medal from Bakhuys Roozeboom Fund (1933) from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Comstock Prize (1933) of the National Academy of Sciences.

He was a member of the American Physical Society and was its President in 1942. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and Honorary Fellow of the Physical Society of London.


  1. Bridgman PW (1952) Studies in large plastic flow and fracture: with special emphasis on the effects of hydrostatic pressure. McGraw-Hill, New YorkzbMATHGoogle Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Holm Altenbach
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  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany