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Harold M. Spector essay, 2002

Identifier: 003.06.04

An essay by Harold N. Spector titled "History of Physics Department at Illinois Institute of Technology." The essay primarily concerns dates of hire, departures, and areas of research by members of the physics department, which was later called the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Physical Sciences. See text of the essay in the Abstract.


  • 2002


Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Research

Collection Size

1 Item


History of Physics Department at Illinois Institute of Technology By Harold N. Spector, Professor Emeritus, Biology, Chemistry and Physical Sciences 4th Revision, November 2002. The origin of the Physics Department at IIT goes back to the early years of Armour Institute of Technology, which is one of the predecessors of IIT, in 1890. At that time, there were only a few physics departments in the U. S. Some physics faculty from the Armour period who had some renown were W. R Smythe, who wrote a famous textbook on electricity and magnetism and went on to Cal Tech, and Robert Christy who had some fame as a nuclear physicist and also went on to Cal Tech. Some physics related work which was done in the Electric Engineering Department was the discovery of thermionic emission and the invention of the triode by Lee de Forest and the pioneering work on Radio Astronomy by Grote Reber.* When Tom joined the department in 1957, having received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, among the senior faculty was William Bennet, a nuclear physicist who had a Van der Graaf accelerator. Bennet later went on to the University of Buffalo. Joining the faculty at the same time was Norm Taxman, a condensed matter theorist who received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He committed suicide not too long after joining the faculty. When I [Harold N. Spector] joined the department in 1966 as an associate professor, Robert Malhiot was acting chairman having succeeded Paul Copland [Copeland] who had been chair for several years up to 1964. Paul passed away not too long after he left the chair position. On the faculty at that time were Forrest Cleveland, who was an atomic spectroscopist, Leonard Grossweiner, who was an experimental condensed matter physicist doing work on color centers in alkali halides, Jordan Markham, who was the IITRI chair professor and was a theoretical condensed matter physicist doing work on color centers in alkali halides, Tom Erber, who was working on problems involving physical phenomena in strong magnetic fields, generating megagauss magnetic fields and studying complex systems, Robert Malhiot, who was chair, Robert Warnock and Fred Ernst who were doing theoretical work in particle physics, Isidore Hauser, Earl Zwicker, who was collaborating with Leonard Grossweiner on color centers, Arthur Harris, who was an experimental solid state physicist, Nygun Dzoan, who was an experimental plasma physicist, Ray Burnstein, who was an experimental particle physicist, Caroline Littlejohn Herzenberg, who was studying lunar rocks using the Mossbauer effect and Esther Segal who was an experimental nuclear physicist. Robert Estin, who was heavily involved in physics education, left the department shortly before I [Spector] arrived. Howard Rubin, who is an experimental particle physicist, joined the department at the same time as I [Spector] did. Of the people in the department at that time, Tom Erber came in 1957 having received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago while Len Grossweiner came in 1958 having received his Ph.D. at IIT. Bob Malhiot and Earl Zwicker had also received their Ph.D.s from IIT while Fred Ernst received his from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Caroline Littlejohn Herzenberg also received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago while Art Harris received his from Northwestern University. Isidore Hauser received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and had taught at Northern Illinois before coming to IIT. Caroline Littlejohn Herzenberg left the Physics Department the year after I [Spector] arrived, having not been promoted to tenure and went to IITRI where she remained until her funding to investigate lunar rocks using the Mossbauer effect ended. Arthur Harris and Nygun Dzoan also were not promoted to tenure in the late 1960s. Art went to Zenith and Dzoan took a position in the Electrical Engineering Department at Notre Dame. On a more positive note, the department hired three new assistant professors, Cheuk Chau, who was hired to work with Harold Weinstock in the Low Temperature Laboratory, Robert Quigley, who as a theoretical condensed matter physicist was hired to work in collaboration with Jordan Markham and Porter Johnson, who as a theoretical particle physicist, collaborated with Robert Warnock. Fred Ernst left particle physics for his first love, general relativity, and formed a general relativity group at IIT together with Robert Malhiot and Isidore Hauser. Fred gained renown in his having the Ernst equation named after him. Richard Isaacson was hired as a visiting assistant professor to work in the general relativity group. Robert Malhiot in 1968 went from being acting chair to being chair, a position he held until 1970 and was also promoted to the rank of professor. Robert Quigley left IIT after several years to join the Department of Physics at Western Washington University where he switched from condensed matter physics to astronomy. He is now a professor there, having served for several years as chair of the department. Fritz Herlach, who had been at Frascati in Italy, was hired as an associate professor to work with Erber on generating megagauss magnetic fields. After conducting a successful experiment at SLAC exploring the effects of such fields with Erber, he was promoted to professor but left after a year to take an academic position in Belgium. Another faculty member who collaborated with Erber on the theoretical aspects of this problem was Heimo Latal who held positions as a visiting faculty member between 1967 and 1973. He then returned to Austria where he is presently a professor at the University of Graz. David White joined the department as a visiting assistant professor during the 1970s and helped with the analysis of the data taken at SLAC. He left IIT to become chair of Physics at Roosevelt University. In 1970, Leonard Grossweiner became chair of the department, a position he held until 1981. His research interests switched from condensed matter physics to biophysics, an area he continued to work in after he retired from IIT in 1996. William Brennan, a former student of Lens was hired as an assistant professor and was also given the position of assistant chair which he held for a few years until he left the department for a job in industry. Porter Johnson then took on the position of assistant chair. Forrest Cleveland retired during this period because he had reached the age of 65 at which mandatory retirement was still in effect. He then went to the University of Kentucky where he remained until he passed away several years latter. Robert Yaes, a theoretical particle physicist was brought in as a visiting assistant professor but left after a few years. He is now a Radiation Oncologist at Happy Chandler Medical Center in Kentucky. Jeff Davis, who was a condensed matter experimentalist working on optical properties of solids was hired as an assistant professor. Together with Fritz Herlach and myself [Spector], he explored the effect of megagauss magnetic fields on the optical properties of semiconductors. Despite his success in this endeavor, he was turned down for tenure and left IIT for San Diego State University where he is now a professor and a fellow of the Optical Society of America. In the early 1970s, both Porter Johnson and Cheuk Chau came up for promotion to tenure in the same year. Porter got his promotion but Cheuk did not and left IIT to take a position at California State University in Chico. Wu-Ki Tung, who was a particle theorist, was hired from the University of Chicago as an associate professor. Richard Isaacson left IIT to take a position with the National Science Foundation in Washington and was one of the driving forces in pushing for LIGO. Esther Segal left the department to take care of an ailing parent. Peter Silverman, a condensed matter experimentalist, was hired as an assistant professor to work with Harold Weinstock in low temperature physics. Even though he played an important role in set up the Copland [Copeland] Laboratory, he was not retained as a faculty member and left IIT for a job in industry. Also, during this period of time, Gerald Cohn and Joseph Baugher were hired as assistant professors to work in the area of Biophysics while Chumin Fu was hired as an assistant professor to work in the area of experimental particle physics. It was in the early 1970s that the department reached it maximum size of over 20 faculty members. From 1977-79, Nicholas Karnezos, who got his degree from the University of Athens, was hired as a visiting assistant professor. During the period of time he was in the department, he worked in the low temperature laboratory with Harold Weinstock investigating the effects of radiation damage on the properties of superconductors. When he left the department, he took a job at AT&T Teletype which later became Lucent Technologies. During the 1970s, several people were promoted to the rank of Professor. Harold Weinstock and Ray Burnstein were promoted in the early 1970s while I [Spector] was promoted in 1976. Bob Warnock left the department to follow his wife to San Francisco where she had received an appointment at a prominent medical school there. Tim Rynne, who had received his Ph.D. from IIT working with Tom Erber, became a visiting assistant professor in the department where he continued to work with Tom on megagauss physics and with myself [Spector] on free carrier absorption in semiconductors in strong magnetic fields. Chumin Fu left IIT after not being given tenure. Gerald Cohn and Joe Baugher were also turned down for tenure. Joe went to AT&T Teletype where he remained until taking early retirement recently. Gerry went to Abbot Laboratories where he remained for several years. Tom Hsiang, a condensed matter experimentalist, and Leonard Lis, an experimental biophysicist, were hired to replace them. Jim Hanlon, an experimental particle physicist was hired to replace Chumin Fu. At the end of this decade, Wu-Ki Tung was also promoted to professor. Tim Rynne was replaced by John Collins, an elementary particle theorist who was brought in as an associate professor. Tim went on to found his own company. When John Collins was brought into the department, Bob Warnock, who had been on leave since his wife took a position at a medical school in California resigned his position. John gained some renown for his work in renormalization groups in particle physics. John Collins after getting tenure eventually left IIT for a position at Penn State. In 1981, Len Grossweiner stepped down from the chairmanship of the department after having served in this position for eleven years. Len continued to do research in biophysics changing his direction so as to promote the use of photodynamic therapy for the treatment of various cancers, especially that of the esophagus. He established a collaboration with people at Ravenswood Hospital which he maintained even after he took an early retirement offer from IIT in 1996. His collaboration continued until he passed away in September 2001 from a heart problem. Wu-Ki Tung then became chair of physics, a position he continued in for three years until he resigned the chairmanship in 1984. During Wu-ki's term as chair, Fred Ernst, Porter Johnson, Earl Zwicker and Isidore Hauser were all promoted to the rank of professor. Tom Hsiang left IIT for a position in an electrical engineering department at the University of Rochester because of difficulty obtaining funding at IIT. John Zasadzinski, a condensed matter experimentalist working on tunneling in superconductors who had received his Ph.D. at Iowa State, and Dimitri Niarchos, another condensed matter experimentalist who received his Ph.D. in Greece, were hired as tenure track assistant professors. In 1983, Carlo Segre, another condensed matter experimentalist who received his Ph.D. from UCSD, was hired as a tenure track assistant professor. In 1983, Leonard Lis left IIT for Kent State University because of a disagreement with the chair and Jim Longworth, an experimental biophysicist who had received his Ph.D. from University of Sheffield in England was brought in as a visiting associate professor. Jim had been at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and had been president of the Photobiology Society. At this period of time, Jordan Markham retired from the department because of health problems. Jordan moved to North Carolina and then to Arizona where he passed away in March 2001. In 1984, Porter Johnson became chair of the department. When he assumed the chair, he found that the Physics Department (as well as several of the other science departments) was faced with an attempt to fire tenured faculty. Three tenured faculty members ( Tung, Rubin and Collins) and one tenure track member (Hanlon) were targeted for elimination but in the end, after a vote of no confidence in President Tom Martin by the Faculty Senate, none of the tenured faculty members were fired. However, since Jim Hanlon was up for tenure, he was denied tenure by the president. As result of the commotion caused by this effort to eliminate tenure faculty, the Physics Department lost several members. Dimitri Niarchos went on leave and did not return. Isidore Hauser accepted an early retirement offer after having spent a years sabbatical leave in Mexico. Harold Weinstock left to take a position as a program director at AFOSR. Fred Ernst took a leave of absence and then left the department for a position at Clarkson University. A little later, Robert Malhiot also accepted an early retirement offer from IIT. However, after Tom Martin left the presidency of IIT, there was a new hire. Tim Morrison, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urban, left Argonne National Laboratory to become an associate professor. He then started the initiatives which lead the beginning of the synchrotron center at IIT together with Carlo Segre. As a result of his successful efforts, Grant Bunker, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington, was hired as an associate professor and devoted his efforts to successfully starting BIOCAT. Tim received tenure around 1990 and Grant in the mid 1990s. Two other new faculty members were hired in the 1990s, Liam Coffey, a young condensed matter theorist who received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago was hired as an assistant professor in 1990 and Dan Kaplan, who had been an associate professor at Northern Illinois and was an experimental particle physicist, was hired as an associate professor in 1994. However, the department lost two of its three particle physicists, Wu-Ki Tung who went to Michigan State and John Collins who went to Penn State. Also, Earl Zwicker retired because of his wifeÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™Ãƒâ"u20ac Ã¢â"u201a¬â"u201e¢ÃƒÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â"u20acšÂ¬Ã¢â"u20acžÂ¢ÃƒÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â"u20acšÂ¬Ã"u2026¡ÃÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Å¡Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™Ãƒâ"u20ac Ã¢â"u201a¬â"u201e¢ÃƒÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Å¡Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u201a¢Ã¢ââ"u20acšÂ¬Ã"u2026¡Ãâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¬ÃÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Â¦Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¡ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â"u20acšÂ¬Ã"u2026¡ÃÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Å¡Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¬ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™Ãƒâ"u20ac Ã¢â"u201a¬â"u201e¢ÃƒÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Å¡Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u201a¢Ã¢ââ"u20acšÂ¬Ã"u2026¡Ãâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¬ÃÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Â¦Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¾ÃÆ"u2019Ã"u2020â"u20ac™ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â"u20acšÂ¬Ã"u2026¡ÃÆ"u2019ââ"u201a¬Å¡Ãƒâ"u20acšÃ"u201a¢s health problems but remained active in some of the educational programs such as SMILE. In 1993, Biology and Chemistry were merged and Tim Morrison and Carlo Segre became chair and associate chair respectively of the merged department. Also, at this time, Leon Lederman, who had retired from the University of Chicago, joined IIT and became a member of the department. In 1995, Physics was merged with Chemistry and Biology into a Department of Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences ending the history of Physics as an independent department although it remained as a division within the merged department. At the time of the merger, Dean Chapman from Brookhaven was hired as an associate professor to be the director of the synchrotron center. Len Grossweiner accepted a buyout offer after the merger although he remained professionally active until he suddenly passed away in September 2001. Of the people from the former physics department, Liam Coffey was promoted to the rank of associate professor and Dan Kaplan and Grant Bunker were granted tenure. Dan Kaplan, Tim Morrison and Carlo Segre were later promoted to the rank of professor. Tom Erber was made a distinguished professor. Ray Burnstein and myself [Spector] accepted an early retirement offer from IIT in Fall 2001 although we both remain professionally active. After the merger, Chris White in experimental particle physics and Linda Spentazouris in accelerator physics, were hired as assistant professors in the Physics Division of BCPS. Also, H. Larry Scott, a biophysicist from Oklahoma State was brought in 2000 to be the new chair of the department. *In this revision, I [Harold N. Spector] have incorporated some material from Tom Erber about the department before I joined the department.

Biographical Note

Harold N. Spector was a member of the IIT Physics Department from 1966 - 2001.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Formerly 2002.054


Catherine Bruck, University Archivist 11/11/2002

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