University of Texas
Noyes D. Smith Jr.
August 25, 1909–April 16, 1973
The 1959 photo at right is from AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Noyes D. Smith Jr., physicist, was born on August 25, 1909, in Austin, Texas, to Noyes Darling Smith Sr. (1875–1933), and Irene Claire Horton Smith. Noyes' father, born in Toledo, Ohio, owned a successful coal business in Austin. Following his death in 1933, his wife continued to run the coal business. At right, we see an ad from the Austin High School 1935 yearbook, "The Comet". Noyes had a younger brother, Horton Wayne Smith (1912-1966). Noyes' mother was very active in community affairs, serving as president of the Texas State PTA, president of the Texas Women's Federation and serving on the Austin Parks Board. She was in constant demand as a speaker. His father was also revered in the Austin community and the following comment upon his death which appeared in the Austin newspaper.
Noyes D. Smith Sr.—‘A Man Who Loves Humanity’
On the last day of a memorable year, Noyes Darling Smith closed his eyes in eternal sleep at his home in the city of Austin. He was born in the land of the Buckeye 58 years ago. He was brought to Texas when five years of age. Hutto was his first home. More than 43 years ago he came to Austin. He has been identified with all the activities of municipal growth and state expansion. He was a plain man of the people. He was a man who loved humanity. He had the human touch. He was the disciple of that creed based on the gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
He was a product of the public schools of Austin and the University of Texas. Away back in 1892 he received his civil engineering degree and was one of Dean T. U. Taylor’s “boys.” He had a legion of friends, here and elsewhere. He was engaged in business for many years. He was an ideal home man and those who know him best say that his home life was as beautiful as his civic life was admirable. He was prominent in the ranks of the Masonic order. He was for years a leading member of the Austin Rotary club. Within the year, his health failed him. All that medical science could do was futile. He was stricken down six weeks ago and in the shades of a dying year he passed out and his soul sped to the invisible shoreline. His widow, Mrs. Noyes D. Smith has been for years one of the most active and energetic leaders in the affairs of women and also in the affairs of men before and after the coming of the ballot to women. His aged mother survives him. He was a model as well as a worthy citizen.
Flowers for the dead. It would be beautiful in sentiment as well as actuality if the flowers were given while worthy and modest men and women are in the land of the living and not after they have been enclosed in the shroud by the shadow of that angel of death from other shores.
Noyes D Smith Jr.'s Education
From an early age, Noyes excelled as a speaker, as we see in this clipping from the Austin American-Statesman.
Noyes graduated from Austin High School. There he excelled in debating and had a leadership role in many extra-curricular activities. Noyes attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 1930. He was on the staff of The Cactus and a member of the Delta Society, an honorary society for freshmen men. A fellow physicist, Charles Hemphill Fay, was also in the society. Both students were on the debating team at Austin High. Eugene Feenberg, celebrated theoretical nuclear physicist, later mentioned in an interview with the American Physical Society, "while at UT, I was greatly impressed by two fellow students, Noyes Smith and Charles Fay."
Noyes married Ruth H. Graham of Franklin, Ohio, September 17, 1932. Ruth was born in 1903 to Everett and Anne Townsend Graham. She was born in Wilkinsburg, PA and was employed as a secretary. They had two children.
Noyes attended Harvard University for graduate work in physics. There, he worked with the celebrated atomic physicist, Otto Oldenberg, (shown at right), in the Jefferson Physical Laboratory. He earned a PhD in 1938 with a dissertation entitled, Intensity of the Continuous Spectrum of Hydrogen. The purpose of the paper was to create an extremely intense source of the ultraviolet continuous spectrum of hydrogen to provide an absorption background for the study of spectra of unstable molecules under investigation at Harvard. The work was published in Journal of the Optical Society of America, 28, Issue 2, p 40-45, 1938. Here is an abstract of the paper:
"In order to construct a most intense source of the continuous spectrum of hydrogen, the most favorable conditions were systematically investigated. The intensity varied linearly with the current density except for very high current densities where it varied less rapidly. The pressure for a maximum of intensity was found to be a function of the current density and practically varied from 1 to 2 mm. A study of the relation of the intensity to length, surface, and cross section of the capillary was made. On the basis of these results a powerful source of the continuum was constructed. This source was compared with the positive crater of the carbon arc and found to be superior in intensity below 2925A."
Noyes, two years earlier, had published a paper entitled, Intensity Distribution of the Continuous Spectrum of Hydrogen in Mixtures with Helium and with Neon , Phys. Rev.49, 345 – Published 1 March 1936. Here is the abstract from that work.
"Shift of intensity in the continuous spectrum of hydrogen by admixture of rare gases. The continuous spectrum of hydrogen emitted in mixtures with helium and with neon was studied. The effect of these gases was to shift the maximum of intensity to longer wave-lengths. The ratio of intensity of the spectrum emitted in pure hydrogen to that emitted in the presence of helium as a function of the wave-length was determined by photographic photometry. In order to establish the reasons for this change in distribution of energy with wave-length in the continuous spectrum, a study of the intensity distribution of the many-line spectrum in the presence of helium was made. 20 cm of helium were sufficient to reduce the vibration in the excited states to practically zero. Hence the continuous spectrum emitted in the presence of helium must come from transitions from the lowest vibrational level of its upper state.
"Measurement of intensity distribution of the continuous spectrum of hydrogen in the presence of helium. The wavelength distribution of energy in the continuous spectrum for 0.6 mm of hydrogen and 21 cm of helium was determined by comparison with the radiation emitted from the positive crater of the carbon arc, taken as the best available approximation of the ultraviolet black-body radiation. Under these conditions the maximum intensity of the continuous spectrum was in the neighborhood of 3200A in contrast with about 2500A for the spectrum under ordinary conditions. The position of this maximum is in agreement with the results of Finkelnburg and Weizel. The broadness of the maximum, however, does not agree with their results nor with the theoretical curves of James, Coolidge and Present. Another possible maximum noted at 4500A suggests that more than one electronic state contributes to the observed continuum."
Noyes was first employed by the Shell Oil Company in Tulsa, OK. During WWII, from 1942–1945, he worked for the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Washington, DC. After the war, he returned to Shell Oil Company in Houston. In the book, The Offshore Imperative: Shell Oil's Search for Petroleum in Postwar America, by Tyler Priest, Texas A&M University Press, 2007, the following quote appears:
Intensity of the Continuous Spectrum of Hydrogen by Noyes D. Smith, Journal of the Optical Society of America, 28, Issue 2, p 40-45, 1938. Jefferson Physical Laboratory, Harvard University.
In order to construct a most intense source of the continuous spectrum of hydrogen, the most favorable conditions were systematically investigated. The intensity varied linearly with the current density except for very high current densities where it varied less rapidly. The pressure for a maximum of intensity was found to be a function of the current density and practically varied from 1 to 2 mm. A study of the relation of the intensity to length, surface, and cross section of the capillary was made. On the basis of these results a powerful source of the continuum was constructed. This source was compared with the positive crater of the carbon arc and found to be superior in intensity below 2925A.
Since physics is a science which deals with matter and energy in a fundamental way, it is obvious that every purposeful activity has some relationship with physics. Physical problems of importance to the petroleum industry involve to some degree all fields of physics; my task this afternoon is thus to try to convey to you something of the scope of physical research in the petroleum industry and to describe a few areas of physics which are of particular interest to the petroleum industry.
Noyes died on April 16, 1973, and was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. Ruth Graham Smith died October 5, 1981 in Trumbull, Ohio.