Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Compton, Arthur Holly

Reference work entry

BornWooster, Ohio, USA, 10 August 1892

DiedBerkeley, California, USA, 15 March 1962

American physicist Arthur Compton received the 1927 Nobel Prize (shared with C. T. R. Wilson, 1869–1959) in Physics for discovering the effect that bears his name. In the Compton effect, X-rays are scattered by individual electrons, with some of the energy of the X-rays being transferred to the electrons. Some modern detectors for γ rays and X-rays from astronomical objects make use of Compton scattering.

Compton was the son of a Presbyterian minister and professor of philosophy, Elias, and Otelia Catherine (néeAugspurger) Compton. His older brother, Karl Taylor Compton (1887–1954), then president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, turned Arthur’s interests from engineering to physics. As a student at Wooster College (bachelor’s degree: 1913), Arthur invented and built a device (which he later improved) for measuring the rotation rate of the Earth and the observer’s latitude from inside a...

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Selected References

  1. Allison, Samuel K. (1965). “Arthur Holly Compton.” Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences 38: 81–110.Google Scholar
  2. Bartlett, A. A. (1964). “Compton Effect: Historical Background.” American Journal of Physics 32: 120–127.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Compton, Arthur H. (1915). “A Determination of Latitude, Azimuth, and the Length of the Day Independent of Astronomical Observations.” Popular Astronomy 23: 199–207.ADSGoogle Scholar
  4. —(1917). “The Intensity of X-Ray Reflection and the Distribution of the Electrons in Atoms.” Physical Review 9: 29–57. (Compton’s Ph.D. thesis.)Google Scholar
  5. —(1922). “Secondary Radiations Produced by X-rays.” Bulletin of the National Research Council 20: 16–72.Google Scholar
  6. —(1923). “A Quantum Theory of the Scattering of X-rays by Light Elements.” Physical Review 21: 483–502.Google Scholar
  7. —(1940). The Human Meaning of Science. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  8. —(1956). Atomic Quest:A Personal Narrative. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. —(1961). “The Scattering of X Rays as Particles.” American Journal of Physics 29: 817–820.Google Scholar
  10. —(1973). Scientific Papers of Arthur Holly Compton, edited by Robert S. Shankland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Compton, A. H. and R. L. Doan (1925). “X-Ray Spectra from a Ruled Reflection Grating.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11: 598–601.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Maria, M. and A. Russo (1989). “Cosmic Ray Romancing: The Discovery of the Latitude Effect and the Compton-Millikan Controversy.” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 19: 211–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Stuewer, Roger H. (1971). “Arthur Holly Compton and the Discovery of the Total Reflexion of X-Rays.” In Histoire de la physique, pp. 101–105. Actes, XIIe Congrès international d’histoire des sciences, Paris 1968, Vol. 5. Paris: A. Blanchard.Google Scholar
  14. —(1975). The Compton Effect:Turning Point in Physics. New York: Science History Publications.Google Scholar
  15. —(1976). “On Compton’s Research Program.” In Essays in Memory of Imre Lakatos, edited by R. S. Cohen et al., pp. 617–633. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar
  16. —(2000). “The Compton Effect: Transition to Quantum Mechanics.” Annalen der Physik 9: 975–989.Google Scholar
  17. Wheaton, Bruce R. (1983). The Tiger and the Shark: Empirical Roots of Wave-Particle Dualism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’EducazioneUniversità di TorinoTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di FisicaUniversità di GenovaGenovaItaly