AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XL , No. 1, Spring 2008
Frederick Seitz
F. Seitz as Chair of AIP’s Governing Board. Credit: Laura Gilpin, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrč Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection.

Frederick Seitz: Scientist, Historian of Physics and Friend of the Center

Frederick Seitz, a renowned solid-state physicist and contributor to the Center for History of Physics, died on March 2, 2008. Seitz served as Chair of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Governing Board from 1954 to 1960, and received AIP’s highest distinction, the Compton Award, in 1970.

Seitz was an active member of the Committee of the Friends of the Center for History of Physics. He helped with fund-raising for many years and was instrumental in helping the Center initiate its first campaign, History that Matters, in 2002, with a lead gift from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. Seitz valued the history of physics and during his years of retirement published several respected books covering aspects of the field: The Science Matrix; Stalin’s Captive: Nikolaus Riehl and the Soviet Race for the Bomb (with Nikolaus Riehl); Electronic Genie: The Tangled History of Silicon (with Norman Einspruch); A Selection of Highlights from the History of the National Academy of Sciences 1863-2005; and his autobiography, On the Frontier—My Life in Science.

Frederick Seitz was born in San Francisco on July 4, 1911. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1932 and his doctorate in physics at Princeton University in 1934. He taught physics at the University of Rochester (1935-1937), the University of Pennsylvania (1939-1942), and Carnegie Institute of Technology (1942-1949), where he published his landmark textbook, The Modern Theory of Solids. Starting in 1949 he worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, serving as Physics Department Head from 1957-1964 and as Dean of the Graduate College and Vice-Chancellor for Research until 1965. Seitz was the first full-time President of the National Academy of Sciences in 1961 and served as President of Rockefeller University from 1968 until he retired in 1978. He received honorary degrees from thirty-four American and foreign universities and colleges.

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