John Hasbrouck Van Vleck

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (March 13, 1899 – October 27, 1980) was an American physicist and mathematician. He was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977, for his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electrons in magnetic solids.

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck
JH van Vleck 1974
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck, 1974
BornMarch 13, 1899
DiedOctober 27, 1980 (aged 81)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison
Harvard University
Known forVan Vleck paramagnetism, Van Vleck transformations, Van Vleck formula
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Minnesota
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Harvard University
University of Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford
Doctoral advisorEdwin C. Kemble
Doctoral studentsRobert Serber
Edward Mills Purcell
Philip Anderson
Thomas Kuhn
John Atanasoff
Arianna Rosenbluth

Education and early life

Born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of mathematician Edward Burr Van Vleck and grandson of astronomer John Monroe Van Vleck, he grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and received an A.B. degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1920. Then he went to Harvard for graduate studies and earned a Ph.D degree in 1922.

Career and research

He joined the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor in 1923, then moved to the University of Wisconsin–Madison before settling at Harvard. He also earned Honorary D. Sc., or D. Honoris Causa, degree from Wesleyan University in 1936.[2]

J. H. Van Vleck established the fundamentals of the quantum mechanical theory of magnetism and the crystal field theory (chemical bonding in metal complexes). He is regarded as the Father of Modern Magnetism.[3][4][5]

During World War II, J. H. Van Vleck worked on radar at the MIT Radiation Lab. He was half time at the Radiation Lab and half time on the staff at Harvard. He showed that at about 1.25-centimeter wavelength water molecules in the atmosphere would lead to troublesome absorption and that at 0.5-centimeter wavelength there would be a similar absorption by oxygen molecules.[6][7][8][9] This was to have important consequences not just for military (and civil) radar systems but later for the new science of radioastronomy.

J. H. Van Vleck participated in the Manhattan Project. In June 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer held a summer study for confirming the concept and feasibility of a nuclear weapon at the University of California, Berkeley. Eight theoretical scientists, including J. H. Van Vleck, attended it. From July to September, the theoretical study group examined and developed the principles of atomic bomb design.[10][11][12]

J. H. Van Vleck's theoretical work led to the establishment of the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory. He also served on the Los Alamos Review committee in 1943. The committee, established by General Leslie Groves, also consisted of W. K. Lewis of MIT, Chairman; E. L. Rose, of Jones & Lamson; E. B. Wilson of Harvard; and Richard C. Tolman, Vice Chairman of NDRC. The committee's important contribution (originating with Rose) was a reduction in the size of the firing gun for the Little Boy atomic bomb, a concept that eliminated additional design weight and sped up production of the bomb for its eventual release over Hiroshima. However, it was not employed for the Fat Man bomb at Nagasaki, which relied on implosion of a plutonium shell to reach critical mass.[13][14]

In 1961/62 he was George Eastman Visiting Professor at University of Oxford[15] and held a professorship at Balliol College.[16]

In 1950 he became foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[17] He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1966[18] and the Lorentz Medal in 1974.[19] For his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electrons in magnetic solids, Van Vleck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 1977, along with Philip W. Anderson and Sir Nevill Mott.[20] Van Vleck transformations, Van Vleck paramagnetism and Van Vleck formula[21] are named after him.

Van Vleck died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aged 81.[22]


Awards and honors

He was awarded the Irving Langmuir Award in 1965, the National Medal of Science in 1966 and elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1967.[1] He was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1971, the Lorentz Medal in 1974 and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977.

Personal life

J. H. Van Vleck and his wife Abigail were also important art collectors, particularly in the medium of Japanese woodblock prints (principally Ukiyo-e), known as Van Vleck Collection. It was inherited from his father Edward Burr Van Vleck. They donated it to the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin in 1980s.[23]


  1. ^ a b Bleaney, B. (1982). "John Hasbrouck Van Vleck. 13 March 1899-27 October 1980". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 28: 627–665. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1982.0024. JSTOR 769913.
  2. ^ Autobiography, John H. Van Vleck, The Nobel Prize in Physics 1977.
  3. ^ John H. van Vleck, International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science.
  4. ^ On the verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the correspondence principle. Part One Archived 2009-05-20 at the Wayback Machine, Anthony Duncan, Michel Janssen; Elsevier Science, 8 May 2007.
  5. ^ On the verge of Umdeutung in Minnesota: Van Vleck and the correspondence principle. Part Two Archived 2009-05-20 at the Wayback Machine, Anthony Duncan, Michel Janssen; Elsevier Science, 8 May 2007.
  6. ^ Norman F. Ramsey Oral History (1991), NORMAN F. RAMSEY: An Interview Conducted by John Bryant, IEEE History Center, 20 June 1991.
  7. ^ Oral History Transcript, Interview with John H. Van Vleck by Katherine Sopka at Lyman Laboratory of Physics, 28 January 1977.
  8. ^ Louis Brown, A radar history of World War II, Institute of Physics Pub., 1999, ISBN 0750306599, pp. 442, 521.
  9. ^ Van Vleck, J.; Weisskopf, V. (1945). "On the Shape of Collision-Broadened Lines" (PDF). Reviews of Modern Physics. 17 (2–3): 227. Bibcode:1945RvMP...17..227V. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.17.227. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-15.
  10. ^ New Weapons Laboratory Gives Birth to the "Gadget", 50th Anniversary Article, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  11. ^ Berkeley Summer Study Group, The Atomic Heritage Foundation.
  12. ^ Atomic History Timeline 1900– 1942 , The Atomic Heritage Foundation.
  13. ^ "Oversight Committee Formed as Lab Begins Research – 50th Anniversary Article, Los Alamos National Laboratory".
  14. ^ Leslie R. Groves, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Retired; Now It Can Be Told, Harper, 1962, pp. 162–63.
  15. ^ Nobel Laureates Archived 2013-10-20 at the Wayback Machine, University of Oxford.
  16. ^ Inspiring minds: the Eastman Professors, Floreat Domus, Balliol College News, Issue 12, June 2006.
  17. ^ "John Hasbrouck van Vleck (1899–1980)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  18. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details". National Science Foundation.
  19. ^ "The Lorentz medal". Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  20. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1977". Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  21. ^ C.), Gutzwiller, M. C. (Martin. Chaos in classical and quantum mechanics. New York. ISBN 1461209838. OCLC 883391909.
  22. ^ "John Van Vleck, Nobel Laureate Known for Work on Magnetism; Earned Three Degree". The New York Times. October 28, 1980. p. A32.
  23. ^ E. B. Van Vleck Collection Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine, Chazen Museum of Art

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Percy Williams Bridgman
Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
Succeeded by
Andrew Gleason
1977 in science

The year 1977 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Arianna W. Rosenbluth

Arianna Rosenbluth (née Wright) is an American physicist and computer scientist who contributed to the development of the Metropolis–Hastings algorithm. An author on the paper Equation of State Calculations by Fast Computing Machines in which the algorithm was proposed, she wrote the first full implementation of the widely used Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm for the MANIAC I computer.

She studied for her undergraduate degree at the Rice Institute, obtaining her Bachelor of Science in 1946, and obtained her Master of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1947.

She completed her PhD in physics under the supervision of John Hasbrouck Van Vleck at Harvard at the age of 22 in 1949, with a thesis entitled Some Aspects of Paramagnetic Relaxation. She was one of three students of van Vleck at the time, the other two being the future Nobel Laureate Philip Warren Anderson and the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn.She then won an Atomic Energy Commission postdoctoral fellowship to Stanford University. She subsequently moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she worked especially on computational aspects of hydrogen bomb development.She married plasma physicist and co-originator of the Metropolis algorithm Marshall Rosenbluth in 1951. They had four children, and worked together on Monte Carlo simulations of liquids for six years.

Crystal field theory

Crystal Field Theory (CFT) is a model that describes the breaking of degeneracies of electron orbital states, usually d or f orbitals, due to a static electric field produced by a surrounding charge distribution (anion neighbors). This theory has been used to describe various spectroscopies of transition metal coordination complexes, in particular optical spectra (colors). CFT successfully accounts for some magnetic properties, colors, hydration enthalpies, and spinel structures of transition metal complexes, but it does not attempt to describe bonding. CFT was developed by physicists Hans Bethe and John Hasbrouck van Vleck in the 1930s. CFT was subsequently combined with molecular orbital theory to form the more realistic and complex ligand field theory (LFT), which delivers insight into the process of chemical bonding in transition metal complexes.

Edward Burr Van Vleck

Edward Burr Van Vleck (June 7, 1863, Middletown, Connecticut – June 3, 1943, Madison, Wisconsin) was an American mathematician.

Harrison M. Randall

Harrison McAllister Randall (December 17, 1870 – November 10, 1969) was an American physicist whose leadership from 1915 to 1941 brought the University of Michigan to international prominence in experimental and theoretical physics.

Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy

The Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy is an endowed professorship established at Harvard College in 1727 by Thomas Hollis.The incumbents have been:

Isaac Greenwood (1727–1737)

John Winthrop (1737–1779)

Samuel Williams (1779–1789)

Samuel Webber (1789–1806)

John Farrar (1807–1838)

Joseph Lovering (1838–1888)

Benjamin Osgood Peirce (1888–1914)

Wallace Clement Sabine (1914–1919)


Theodore Lyman (1921–1926)

Percy Williams Bridgman (1926–1950)

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (1951–1969)

Andrew Gleason (1969–1992)

Bertrand Halperin (1992-)

John Monroe Van Vleck

John Monroe Van Vleck (March 4, 1833 – November 4, 1912) was an American mathematician and astronomer.

He taught astronomy and mathematics at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for more than 50 years (1853-1912), and served as acting university president twice. The Van Vleck Observatory (at Wesleyan University) and the crater Van Vleck on the Moon are named after him.

John Torrence Tate Sr.

John Torrence Tate Sr. (July 28, 1889 – May 27, 1950) was an American physicist noted for his editorship of Physical Review between 1926 and 1950. He is the father of mathematician John Torrence Tate Jr.

Judd–Ofelt theory

Judd–Ofelt theory is a theory in physical chemistry describing the intensity of electron transitions within the 4f shell of rare-earth ions in solids and solutions.The theory was introduced independently in 1962 by Brian R. Judd of the University of California, Berkeley, and PhD candidate George S. Ofelt at Johns Hopkins University. Their work was published in Physical Review and the Journal of Chemical Physics, respectively.

Judd and Ofelt did not meet, however, until 2003 at a workshop in Lądek-Zdrój, Poland.Judd and Ofelt's work was cited approximately 2000 times between 1962 and 2004. Brian M. Walsh of NASA Langley places Judd and Ofelt's theory at the "forefront" of a 1960s revolution in spectroscopic research on rare-earth ions.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1967

This page lists Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1967.

List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1929

List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1929.

List of commencement speakers at Rice University

In 2013, Rice University held its 100th commencement. Since 1986, commencements have been held in the Academic Quadrangle (weather permitting). Every commencement at Rice has included the hymns Veni Creator Spiritus and Lord of All Being, Throned Afar.

2018: Michael Bloomberg

2017: Mae Jemison

2016: Sheryl WuDunn

2015: Colin Powell

2014: Helene D. Gayle

2013: Neil deGrasse Tyson

2012: Salman Khan – (video)

2011: David Brooks – (video)

2010: Muhammad Yunus – (video)

2009: Zainab Salbi – (video)

2008: George Rupp – (video)

2007: John Doerr – (audio)

2006: Bill White – (audio)

2005: Michelle Hebl

2004: Alberto Gonzales

2003: Shannon Lucid

2002: Bill Cosby

2001: Morris Dees

2000: George H. W. Bush

1999: Helmut Schmidt – (text)

1998: Kurt Vonnegut

1997: Alan Dershowitz

1996: Anita K. Jones

1995: Bill Bradley

1994: Elizabeth Dole

1993: Jimmy Carter

1992: Richard von Weizsäcker

1991: James A. Baker IIIFrom 1971 to 1990, Rice did not invite speakers to address graduates at commencement. During that time, addresses were given by university presidents Norman Hackerman (1971–1985) and George Rupp (1986–1990).

From 1952 to 1985, commencements were held on the east side (lawn) of Lovett Hall.

1970: T. Harry Williams, Professor of History, L.S.U.

1969: Harry H. Ransom, Chancellor, Univ. of Texas

1968: William H. Masterson, President, Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga

1967: Robert A. Charpie, President, Electronics Division, Union Carbide

1966: Jack K. Williams, V.P. for Academic Affairs and Dean, Clemson Univ.

1965: Henry Allen Moe, President, American Philosophical Society

1964: Charles Hard Townes, Provost, M.I.T.

1963: John Connally, Governor, Texas

1962: Merrimon Cuninggim, Executive Director, Danforth Foundation

1961: Herbert E. Longenecker, President, Tulane Univ.

1960: Harvie Branscomb, Chancellor, Vanderbilt Univ.

1959: George R. Harrison, Dean of the School of Science, M.I.T.

1958: John W. Gardner, President, Carnegie Foundation

1957: Julius Adams Stratton, Chancellor, M.I.T.

1956: John Hasbrouck Van Vleck, Dean of Engineering, Harvard Univ.

1955: J. William Fulbright, Senator, Arkansas

1954: J. E. Wallace Sterling, President, Stanford Univ.

1953: Roger Philip McCutcheon, Dean of the Graduate School, Tulane Univ.

1952: Douglas Southall Freeman, Scholar from Richmond, VirginiaIn 1951, commencement was held in Autry Court.

1951: Lewis Webster Jones, President, Univ. of ArkansasFrom 1935 to 1950, commencements were held in courtyard of the Chemistry Laboratories (now Keck Hall).

1950: Robert Andrews Millikan, V.P. of the Board, California Institute of Technology

1949: Detlev W. Bronk, President, Johns Hopkins Univ.From 1916 to 1948, commencements were held on Monday, preceded by a Baccalaureate sermon on Sunday.

1948: Blake Ragsdale Van Leer, President, Georgia School of Technology

1947: Frederick Hard, President, Scripps CollegeFrom 1942 to 1946, addresses were delivered by William Vermillion Houston, President of Rice Institute. In 1944 and 1946, Rice held two commencement ceremonies each year as part of a “wartime speed-up educational program.”

1941: Isaiah Bowman, President, Johns Hopkins Univ.

1940: James Rowland Angell, President Emeritus, Yale Univ.

1939: George Edgar Vincent, Former President, Rockefeller Foundation

1938: George Norlin, President, Univ. of Colorado

1937: Frank Pierrepont Graves, President, State Univ. of New York

1936: Harold Willis Dodds, President, Princeton Univ.

1935: Ralph Budd, President, Burlington LinesFrom 1916 to 1934, commencements were held in the Academic Quadrangle.

1934: John Campbell Merriam, President, Carnegie Institution of Washington

1933: Edwin Grant Conklin, Professor of Biology, Princeton Univ.

1932: Roscoe Pound, Dean of the Law School, Harvard Univ.

1931: Captain James A. Baker, Chairman of the Board, Rice Institute

1930: Ralph Adams Cram, Supervising Architect, Rice Institute

1929: William Edward Dodd, Professor of American History, Univ. of Chicago

1928: John Huston Finley, Editor, New York Times

1927: Baron de Cartier de Marchienne, Belgian Ambassador to the U.S.

1926: Joseph Sweetman Ames, Professor of Physics, Johns Hopkins Univ.

1925: Stockton Axson, Professor of English, Rice Institute

1924: Charles William Dabney, Former President, Univ. of Cincinnati

1923: Edgar Fahs Smith, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Univ. of Pennsylvania

1922: Frank Thilly, Professor of Philosophy, Cornell Univ.

1921: Charles William Eliot, President Emeritus, Harvard Univ.

1920: J. C. Hutcheson, Judge of the Federal Court

1919: William M. Thornton, Dean of the Department of Engineering, Univ. of Virginia

1918: Nelson Phillips, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas

1917: William H. Carpenter, Provost, Columbia Univ.

1916: David Starr Jordan, Chancellor Emeritus, Stanford Univ.

Michelson–Morley Award

The Michelson–Morley Award is a science award that originated from the Michelson Award that was established in 1963 by the Case Institute of Technology. It was renamed in 1968 by the newly formed Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) after the federation between the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University. The award continued until 1992, and was re-established in 2002. The award in its various forms is named for physics professor Albert A. Michelson (Case School of Applied Sciences) and chemistry professor Edward W. Morley (Western Reserve University) who carried out the famous Michelson–Morley experiment of 1887.

Percy Williams Bridgman

Percy Williams Bridgman (21 April 1882 – 20 August 1961) was an American physicist who received the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on the scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science. The Bridgman effect and the Bridgman–Stockbarger technique are named after him.

Philip Warren Anderson

Philip Warren Anderson (born December 13, 1923) is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate. Anderson has made contributions to the theories of localization, antiferromagnetism, symmetry breaking (including a paper in 1962 discussing symmetry breaking in particle physics, leading to the development of the Standard Model around 10 years later), and high-temperature superconductivity, and to the philosophy of science through his writings on emergent phenomena.

Robert Serber

Robert Serber (March 14, 1909 – June 1, 1997) was an American physicist who participated in the Manhattan Project. Serber's lectures explaining the basic principles and goals of the project were printed and supplied to all incoming scientific staff, and became known as The Los Alamos Primer. The New York Times called him “the intellectual midwife at the birth of the atomic bomb.”

Shelter Island Conference

The first Shelter Island Conference on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics was held from June 2–4, 1947 at the Ram's Head Inn in Shelter Island, New York. Shelter Island was the first major opportunity since Pearl Harbor and the Manhattan Project for the leaders of the American physics community to gather after the war. As Julian Schwinger would later recall, "It was the first time that people who had all this physics pent up in them for five years could talk to each other without somebody peering over their shoulders and saying, 'Is this cleared?'"

The conference, which cost $850, was followed by the Pocono Conference of 1948 and the Oldstone Conference of 1949. They were arranged with the assistance of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Later Oppenheimer deemed Shelter Island the most successful scientific meeting he had ever attended; and as Richard Feynman recalled to Jagdish Mehra in April 1970: "There have been many conferences in the world since, but I've never felt any to be as important as this.... The Shelter Island Conference was my first conference with the big men.... I had never gone to one like this in peacetime."

University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Letters and Science

The University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Letters and Science is the largest college of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It is located at Madison, Wisconsin.

Van Vleck

Van Vleck can refer to:

peopleJohn Monroe Van Vleck, American astronomer, father of Edward Burr van Vleck

Edward Burr Van Vleck, American mathematician, father of John Hasbrouck van Vleck, son of John Monroe van Vleck

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck, Nobel Prize-winning American physicist, son of Edward Burr van Vleck

Tom van Vleck, American computer software engineer

Trevor Van Vleck, All American Pole Vaulter. Creator of the "STA Block" app currently on the apple app store, All Met Cross Country RunnerplacesVan Vleck, California

Van Vleck, Texas

Van Vleck Observatory, Connecticut (IAU code 298)

Van Vleck (crater)

Van Vleck House and Barn

Van Vleck House and Gardens

Van Vleck Independent School District

Howard Van Vleck Arboretum


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