University of Texas,
Department of Physics History
R. L. Moore Hall Period 1972-Present

Begun in October 1968, completed in June 1972 and dedicated in October 1973, Robert Lee Moore Hall covered 368,211 square feet and cost approximately $10,073,620. Much of the funding came from the National Science Foundation. The Department had 56 faculty members and about 40 research scientists. (Information from The Alcalde, Nov. 1973)

(Mel Oakes was in charge of the coordination with the final phase of the building and with moving arrangements from Painter.. He submitted the architects plans to each of the experimentalist responible for final approval of their floor. When the plans were returned, every one of them had removed all restrooms from their floor and expanded their labs into that space. They told Oakes, "Put them on another floor." The architect fortunately ignored these modification—Mel Oakes.)


 

 

 

The UT Campus showing the open area in the upper right where R. L. Moore Hall was to be located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1971- The Texas Turbulent Tokamak experiments began. These are the first tokomak experiments in Texas.

1972- The department moved to the new Physics-Math-Astronomy Building. Physics had about 190,000 sq. ft. of floorspace.

1972- Dorothy Walker was hired as Mel Oakes’ secretary in Plasma Physics. She was first African-American hired in the department. She later became a senior technical secretary for the department, serving in this position until she retired in 2003 for health reasons. Her cheerful willingness to help was highly appreciated by faculty, staff, and especially graduate students. She died in 2004 leaving a son, Steven Walker.

 

 

1972- Bryce Dewitt and his wife Cécile Dewitt-Morette joined UT as professors. DeWitt was appointed Director of the Center for Relativity, a position he held until 1987. With Professor John A. Wheeler in physics, he formulated the fundamental equation called the Wheeler-DeWitt Equation that explains how the wave function of the universe works. His other scientific accomplishments included applying his mathematical methods to “gauge” theories, which have been used to describe the forces that act on elementary particles. DeWitt’s honors include receiving the Dirac medal from the Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy, the Pomeranchuk Prize of the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in Moscow, the Marcel Grossman Award (jointly with Cécile DeWitt-Morette), and election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005, he was named recipient of the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. He died in 2004 at the age of 81. More about Bryce Dewitt.

Cécile was initially appointed in the Department of Astronomy because of nepotism rules. In 1983, she moved to the Physics Department. In 1993, she became the Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professor in Physics. In 1951, Cécile founded the celebrated Ecole d’Été de Physique Théorique of the University of Grenoble at Le Houches. More about Cécile Dewitt.

 

 

 

 

1973- The old Physics and Astronomy Building was remodeled and renamed for the late UT president and renowned geneticist, Theophilus Shickel Painter.

1973- Linda Reichl, was appointed assistant professor of physics. She is the first woman on the physics faculty since Associate Professor Lulu Bailey died in 1921, a span of 53 years. Linda received her Ph.D. degree at the University of Denver in 1969. She was a N.S.F. Faculty Associate at the University of Texas at Austin from 1969 to 1971. From 1971 to 1973, she was a Fulbright-Hays Research Scholar at Free University of Brussels. She became assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin in 1973, associate professor in 1980, and full professor in 1988. She has served as Acting Director of the Center for Statistical Mechanics and Complex Systems since 1974. Her research has ranged over a number of topics in statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics. They include the theory of low temperature Fermi liquids, quantum transport theory, application of linear hydrodynamics to translational and rotational Brownian motion and dielectric response, the transition to chaos in classical and quantum mechanical conservative systems and the new field of 'stochastic chaos' theory. She has published more than 100 research papers, has written three books, and has edited several books. She also was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Natural Sciences. She served as Chair of the University of Texas Faculty Council 2005-06.

1974- The Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy Building was renamed Robert Lee Moore Hall after the celebrated UT mathematician. At right is Moore (1882-1972) in 1902, when he received an M. A. from the University of Texas. In 1898, already knowing calculus thanks to self-study, Moore entered the University of Texas at the unusually early age of 16. Below is his signature from his freshman book on “Classical Geography” by H. F. Tozer. He completed the B. S. in three years instead of the usual four; his teachers included G. B. Halsted and L. E. Dickson. After a year as a teaching fellow at Texas, he taught high school for a year in Marshall, Texas.

An assignment of Halsted's led Moore to prove that one of Hilbert’s axioms for geometry was redundant. When E. H. Moore (no relation), who headed the department of mathematics at the University of Chicago, and whose research interests were on the foundations of geometry, heard of Robert's feat, he arranged for a scholarship that would allow Robert to study for a doctorate at Chicago. Oswald Veblen supervised Moore's 1905 thesis, entitled “Sets of Metrical Hypotheses for Geometry.”

Moore then taught one year at the University of Tennessee, two years at Princeton University, and three years at Northwestern University. In 1910, he married Margaret MacLelland Key of Brenham, Texas; they had no children. In 1911, he took up a position at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1920, Moore happily returned to the University of Texas at Austin as an associate professor, and was promoted to full professor three years later. In 1951, he went on half pay, but continued to teach his habitual five classes a year, including a section of freshman calculus, until the University authorities forced his definitive retirement in 1969, his 87th year.(From Wikipedia.)

 

1976- Following his retirement from Princeton, John Archibald Wheeler joined the faculty as director of the Center for Theoretical Physics. Wheeler had made important contributions to theoretical physics. In 1937, he introduced the S-matrix, which became an indispensable tool in particle physics. He was a pioneer in the theory of nuclear fission along with Niels Bohr and Enrico Fermi. In 1939, he collaborated with Bohr on the liquid drop model of nuclear fission. During World War II, Wheeler interrupted his academic career to participate in the development of the U.S. atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project at the Hanford site, where reactors were constructed to produce the chemical element plutonium for atomic bombs. Even before the Hanford site started up the B-Pile (the first of three reactors), he had anticipated that the accumulation of "fission product poisons" would eventually impede the ongoing nuclear chain reaction by absorbing neutrons, and he correctly deduced (by calculating the half-life decay rates) that an isotope of xenon (Xe135) would be most responsible. He went on to work on the development of the American hydrogen bomb under Project Matterhorn. After concluding his Manhattan Project work, Wheeler returned to Princeton to resume his academic career. In 1957, while working on extensions to general relativity, he introduced the word “wormhole” to describe hypothetical tunnels in space-time. His work in general relativity included the theory of gravitational collapse. The term was coined in 1967 during a talk he gave at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies. He was also a pioneer in the field of quantum gravity with his development (with Bryce DeWitt) of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation or, as he called it, the "wave function of the Universe." He remained at Texas until 1986. He died in 2008 at age 96. More about John Wheeler.

1977-Professor Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures.” For his study of irreversible thermodynamics he received the Rumford Medal in 1976. Other titles held were, Director of the International Solvay Institute, and Director of Center for Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamic, both in Brussels, Belgium. In 1989, he was awarded the title of Viscount by the King of Belgium. He died in 2003 at age 86. More about Ilya Prigogine.

1978- Harry Swinney, a leader in the study of chaos and non-linear dynamics, moved from CUNY City College to Texas. In 1985, the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics is created with Harry as director. More about Harry Swinney.

 

 

1978- Roman Smoluchowski joined the physics and astronomy departments after retiring from Princeton University. During his scholarly career, Roman made important contributions to a number of areas: the role played by structural defects in the properties of solids, magnetism and order-disorder transformations in metals and alloys, the mechanisms of radiation damage, the formation mechanisms and stability of point defects in the alkali halides, the application of solid-state physics to the properties of biological hard tissue and materials problems in astrophysics. He applied his knowledge of radiation damage phenomena to the structural nature of the lunar surface. This work was done during the Apollo missions, prior to the lunar landings. He also turned his attention to problems in solid-state astrophysics, including the gravitational collapse and the resulting interior structure and magnetic field of Jupiter and the outer planets. This work was being tested with data from the Galileo spacecraft and its atmospheric probe. He made important contributions to our understanding of the rings around Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. In 1991, the International Astronomical Society, in honor of Roman's 80th birthday, named asteroid number 4530 after him. More about Roman Smoluchowski.


1980-
The Text Experimental Tokamak was completed. Marshall N. Rosenbluth, at right, joined the faculty as professor and director of the newly-formed Institute of Fusion Studies (IFS). The Institute was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) with matching funds from The University of Texas. Herb Berk joined the institute that year also. During the seven years of Rosenbluth’s tenure at Texas, he led a beehive of scientific activity in many areas of plasma physics. These included the understanding of how kinetic theory influences the behavior of magneto-hydrodynamic stability, the development of new concepts in nonlinear dynamics, and the development of new approaches in the description of plasma turbulence and transport. Marshall was appointed to the Fondren Chair in 1983, and he was a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Prize awarded by the Department of Energy in 1985. In 1987, the IFS organized a symposium to celebrate Marshall’s sixtieth birthday. Approximately 150 physicists from many countries (most being past collaborators) attended. A book of this symposium, “From Particles to Plasmas: Lectures Honoring Marshall N. Rosenbluth,” edited by James Van Dam, was published. Rosenbluth returned to San Diego in 1987 to be reappointed to his joint positions at General Atomic and UCSD. He died in 2003 at the age of 76.

1982- Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg joined the faculty as the Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Regental Chair in Science and founded the Theory Group. Weinberg, along with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam, had received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current." Among many awards and honors Weinberg received while at Texas was the National Medal of Science in 1991. More about Steve Weinberg..

 

 

 

1982- Henry F. “Hank” Schreiner Jr. earns Ph.D. with thesis entitled, "Reaching a Quantitative Understanding of Muon Tomography." He is the first blind student to received a Ph.D. in physics at UT. The work was supervised by Professor Duane Dicus. Schreiner graduated with High Honors from Oklahoma University in 1974. He worked for over fifteen years for the US Navy as a research physicist and oceanographer, receiving numerous achievement awards, including: The award for the Outstanding Employee with a Disability, for both the Office of Naval Research (ONR) - 1988 and Chief of the Naval Oceanographic Command (CNOC) - 1994, and Special commanding officer recognition awards for achievements in computational modeling - 1986 - 1988 - 1994. Hank, as he is known to his friends and family, has had a variety of interests and activities: he won 18 out of 21 wrestling matches while in graduate school, taught Sunday school, ran in four marathons, and built a house in the Texas Hill Country. Dr. Schreiner now devotes himself to full-time writing. He has recently published several action adventure novels. He and his wife, Patty, have two sons, Henry III and Kaysen. More...

1982-18th Solvey Conference on Physics, University of Texas at Austin, November 8.

1983- The Institute celebrates the centennial year of its founding. Discovery magazine publishes a special issue which includes four articles that highlight the history of the Physics Department. See the articles here.

1987- Steve Madere, from San Antonio, completed a B.S. in physics and entered graduate school at UT. After a year he transferred to UC San Diego where he completed a master’s. While there he worked with Sally Ride as a research assistant, writing software library code for free electron laser calculations. Eschewing La Jolla, he returned to UT graduate school to continue work on a Ph.D. in nonlinear dynamics. After passing the qualifying exam in 1990, he left to accept a position with IBM doing text retrieval research. In 1995, he started Deja News, the Usenet search engine company which later became Deja.com. The basis of the company was a novel text retrieval engine, which he had authored. The engine was capable of searching much larger databases of unstructured text than other systems available at the time. Over the lifetime of the company, he raised over 60 million dollars in venture capital. He grew the web site to an audience of over 5 million monthly users. Steve was named Austin Information Technologist of the Year in 1998. He is shown on the right in the photo. Deja.com was sold to Google in 2001 and became Google Groups. Later, he became the chief technology officer of Barfly Interactive Networks, an electronic media company. He now is developing software to model non-linear dynamical systems.

1987- Christopher Fuchs, from Cuero, TX, earned a BS in Physics and BS in Mathematics. His undergraduate research supervisor was John Archibald Wheeler. In 1996, he received a PhD from The University of New Mexico with a dissertation entitled, Distinguishability and Accessible Information in Quantum Theory. In January 2002, while a Research Staff Member at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, Chris along with C. M. Caves and R. Schack, published a paper, Quantum Probabilities as Bayesian Probabilities, Physical Review A 65(2). In this paper Quantum Bayesianism or QBism, for short, was born. The paper has generated much discussion and citations. A summary of the ideas are contained in Nature, Volume 507, No. 7493, March 27, 2014, p. 421. Christopher Fuchs is a professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in South Africa.

 

 

 

1989- Roy Bickerton joined the Institute for Fusion Studies. Bickerton was a former director of the world’s largest fusion magnetic experiment, the Joint European Torus at Culham Laboratory. It was at Culham that he made several major contributions to fusion research. He was born on July 3, 1926, in London. As a schoolboy during the Blitz in London, he was a runner for air raid warden posts. After leaving school, he joined the RAF and qualified as a pilot just as the war ended, and as a result did not see combat. The RAF gave him a grant to read physics at Exeter College, Oxford. He received his PhD from Oxford in 1955. Afterward, Bickerton began work on fusion research at the United Kingdom Authority Laboratory at Harwell, before joining Culham Laboratory in 1962. In 1980, when Culham was chosen as the site for the JET project, he became its scientific director. In 1985, he was appointed deputy director and he retired in 1988. At Texas, he taught classes in plasma physics and used his encyclopedic knowledge of fusion to advise faculty, staff and students. He died in 2009.


 

1989- John A. Rogers receive his BS degrees in physics and chemistry. From MIT, he received SM degrees in physics and in chemistry in 1992 and the PhD degree in physical chemistry in 1995.  From 1995 to 1997, Rogers was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard University Society of Fellows. Rogers has won many awards including a MacArthur Fellowship. For details of his exceptional career see John A. Rogers.

 

 

 


1990- Roy Schwitters joined the department as the S.W. Richardson Foundation Regental Professor of Physics. He was also the director of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) laboratory in Dallas, TX. Before moving to Texas, he was professor of physics at Harvard University. In 1996, Professor Schwitters was a recipient of the W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics. The citation read "Gail Hanson and Roy Schwitters are honored for their separate contributions which together provided the first clear evidence that hadronic final states in e+ e- annihilation, which are largely composed of spin 0 and spin 1 particles, originate from the fragmentation of spin 1/2 quarks. Roy Schwitters used muon pair production to measure the polarization of the beams in the electron-positron storage ring SPEAR. He showed that the azimuthal distribution of high momentum hadrons in hadronic final states was the same as that observed for muon pairs, consistent with the origin of these hadrons from the fragmentation of spin 1/2 quarks." Dr. Schwitters is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a recipient of the Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation, and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Photo at right: l-r: J. David Jackson, UC Berkeley and Roy F. Schwitters (then Harvard), dressed as Ryokan Residents, Kamikochi Valley
Date: May 27, 1982
Credit: Photograph by J. D. Jackson, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Jackson Collection

 

 

 

 

 

2000- Allan H. MacDonald joined the physics department with a Sid W. Richardson Chair in Physics.. He received the B.Sc. degree from St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1973 and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the University of Toronto in 1974 and 1978 respectively. He was a member of the research staff of the National Research Council of Canada from 1978 to 1987, and taught at Indiana University (1987-2000). He has held visiting positions at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. He has contributed to research on the quantum Hall effect, electronic structure theory, magnetism and superconductivity, among a variety of other topics. He has more than 400 archival refereed publications and is now active in spintronics, cold atom, graphene, and quantum Hall physics research. A fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was awarded the Herzberg Medal (1987) and the Buckley Prize (2007).

 

2009- William "Bill" Dorland, a UT BS graduate in physics in 1988, won the E. O. Lawrence Award. The announcement read "University of Maryland fusion scientist William Dorland is one of six persons chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive its 2009 E. O. Lawrence Award "for their ourstanding contributions in research and development supporting the Department of Energy and its missions." Dorland is cited "for his scientific leadership in the development of comprehensive computer simulations of plasma turbulence, and his specific predictions, insights, and improved understanding of turbulent transport in magnetically-confined plasma experiments." Dorland received his Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University in 1993. He also earned a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1993, after completing a course of study focused on international science policy. He is a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher

The Lawrence Award was established in 1959 to honor the memory of Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence who invented the cyclotron and after whom two major Energy Department laboratories (in Berkeley and Livermore, CA) are named. The award winners will each receive a gold medal, a citation and $50,000.

Work by Dorland and co-workers Mike Kotschenreuther (a University of Texas scientist) and Greg Hammett in the mid-1990s led to improvements in the confinement physics scaling models that are currently used to predict the performance of ITER, the first fusion engineering test reactor, now under construction in France as an international venture.


2010- George Sudarshan was awarded the Dirac Prize. His important contributions to theoretical physics include the discovery (with Robert Marshak) of the V-A theory of weak interactions, which opened the way to the full description of the unified electroweak theory. He has also made innovative discoveries in the field of quantum optics, including the Optical Equivalence Theorem, which provides the foundation upon which the investigations of the manifestly quantum or non-classical character of the electromagnetic field are based. More about George Sudarshan.

 

2015- David Howard Reitze The first direct detection of gravitational waves in late 2015 were made possible by a forty year experimental campaign to design, build, and operate LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observator. Professor Richard Matzner was actively involved in simulating events that would provide a profile of of possible signals. David Reitz, a 1990 University of Texas PhD graduate, serves as Executive Directory of the LIGO Laboratory at California Institute of Technology and Professor of Physics at the University of Florida. Reitze's dissertation entitled, Femtosecond Dynamics of Phase Transitions in Carbon and Silicon. His dissertation was supervised by Professor Michael Downer. The dissertation was selected by the graduate school as the outstanding dissertation that year. David's BA in physics was from Northwestern University.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration was awarded a 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the 2016 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three members of the LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration.

 

2019- Heather Flewelling, 2001 UT graduate, on February 26, discovered a 17th magnitude comet in images taken with the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) 0.5m Schmidt at Mauna Loa on February 26.65. It had been posted on the PCCP as A10ceJ9. [CBET 4614, MPEC 2019-F53, 2019 March 21]. The comet is at perihelion at 1.6 au in 2019 May.The comet bears her name, COMET C/2019 D1 (Flewelling). Following graduation from the University of Texas, Heather enrolled in the University of Michigan astronomy program and received her PhD in 2009. Heather is currently a researcher at ATLAS (Asteroid Terrfestrial-impact Last Alert System) in Hawaii. She is a member of the team that created and maintains Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS)   It is the world's largest astronomical database.