Robert Andrews Millikan was a distinguished American experimental physicist who was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. Born in Illinois, he grew up in a rural area and attended high school in Maquoketa, Iowa. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in Classics from Oberlin College. After enrolling in college, he became interested in experimenting and solving problems. In the years that followed, he earned a master’s degree and PhD in Physics and pursued a career in science. Robert Millikan was devoted to study, writing, and academia throughout his career. Measurement of the elementary electronic charge, determination of the precise value of Planck’s constant, research on cosmic rays, and comprehension of the photoelectric phenomenon are among his most important contributions to physics. He taught at the University of Chicago and the California Institute of Technology. Approximately a dozen books were produced or co-authored by him, and several of his works were eventually adapted into textbooks and guides.
Youth and Early Life
Robert Andrews Millikan was born in Morrison, Illinois, on 22 March 1868. He was the second child of church minister Reverend Silas Franklin Millikan and his wife Mary Jane Andrews. There were five of his siblings.
He received his high school diploma from Maquoketa High School in Iowa. After graduating from high school, he briefly worked in a sawmill and as a court stenographer.
In 1887, he enrolled at Oberlin College to pursue a Classics degree. His teachers saw his interest in physics at this moment and offered him the chance to teach physics to junior courses, which he eagerly accepted upon his 1891 graduation.
In 1893, he earned a master’s degree in Physics from Oberlin College, and in 1895, he earned a doctorate in Physics from Columbia University for his dissertation on the polarization of light emitted by incandescent surfaces – employing molten gold and silver at the U.S. Mint for the the this purpose.
At the suggestion of his professors, he pursued a year of postgraduate research in Europe following the completion of his doctoral degree. In Paris, he attended lectures given by the French physicist and engineer Henri Poincaré, while in Germany he studied under Max Planck, Walter Nernst, and Felix Klein.
Robert Millikan’s Career
Robert Andrews Millikan began his career in 1896 as a physician assistant at the University of Chicago. He served as A. A. Michelson’s assistant at the Ryerson Laboratory.
In addition to his employment, he produced or co-authored a number of books on the subject. These include “A College Course in Physics” by S.W. Stratton (1898), “Mechanics, Molecular Physics, and Heat” by H.G. Gale (1902), and “First Course in Physics” by H.G. Gale (1906), among others.
In 1907, he was elevated to associate professor, and in 1910, he was promoted to professor. He held this office until 1921.
His areas of interest in physics were electricity, molecular physics, and optics. Using the ‘falling drop method,’ he accurately measured the charge carried by an electron in 1910, one of his earliest significant achievements. In addition, he demonstrated that the value was constant for all electrons, demonstrating the atomic structure of electricity.
Between the years 1912 and 1915, he conducted research on the photoelectric effect. As part of his investigation, he confirmed Albert Einstein’s photoelectric equation and then estimated the value of Planck’s constant ‘h’ with the aid of graphs depicting the photoelectric emission of various metals.
In 1913, he was engaged as a consultant to Western Electric’s research division. He joined the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society the following year.
In 1916, he was appointed President of the American Physical Society, a position he held for two years. In 1915, he was inducted into the National Academy of Science.
During World War I, he served as vice president of the National Research Council. He contributed to the development of meteorological equipment and anti-submarine weapons at this time.
The astronomer George Ellery Hale persuaded him to begin attending Throop College of Technology in Pasadena in 1917. Later, the institution was renamed the California Institute of Technology, and he became the Institute’s executive council chairman. He held this position between 1921 and 1945.
Between 1920 and 1923, he conducted research on the hot-spark spectroscopy of the elements. The discovery of his equation of motion for falling particles, in conjunction with other investigations, led to comprehensive research on “cosmic radiation.”
Robert Andrews Millikan was actively engaged in writing books and contributing to journals throughout his life. His religious and philosophical ideas were reflected in several of his scientific writings, including ‘Evolution in Science and Religion (1927), ‘Electrons (+ and –)’, ‘Protons, Photons, Neutrons, Mesotrons, and Cosmic Rays’ (1947), and his autobiography published in 1950.
His Notable Works
Robert Andrews Millikan was a distinguished physicist whose most significant contributions to science include the determination of the electron’s charge, the comprehension of the “Photoelectric effect,” and his research on “cosmic rays.”
Honors & Accomplishments
In 1913, the United States National Academy of Sciences awarded Robert Andrews Millikan the ‘Comstock Prize in Physics’
He was awarded the IEEE Edison Medal by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1922.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was granted to him in 1923 “for his work on the elementary charge of electricity and the photoelectric effect.” In the same year, he was also awarded the Royal Society of London’s Hughes Medal.
In 1937, the Franklin Institute awarded Robert Millikan the Franklin Medal.
Personal History and Legacy
Robert Millikan married Greta Ervin Blanchard in 1902, and the pair had three sons: Clark Blanchard (1903), who became a professor of aeronautics; Glenn Allan (1906), who became a physiologist; and Max Franklin (1913), who became a CIA official.
On 19 December 1953, at the age of 85, he died of a heart attack at his California mansion.
Estimated Net worth
Robert is one of the wealthiest and most well-known physicists. According to our investigation, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Robert Millikan has an estimated net worth of $1.5 million.