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Family background; grows up in California; early interest in electronics. Undergraduate and graduate studies at Caltech. Strong interest in history of science as undergraduate. Ph.D. in physics, 1932. University of California at Berkeley, 1932-1934. MIT from 1934; founder of the Radioactivity Center. Starts first course designated "nuclear physics," January 1935. Strong interest in study of radium poisoning; radium tolerance in humans, cancer research. World War II work, postwar work; establishment of Laboratory for Nuclear Science and Engineering.
Family background; identification with and influence of mentor Harvey Fletcher; bachelor's degree; calling as a Mormon missionary in Chicago, graduate course in physics with Albert A. Michelson. Work on electronics and acoustics at Western Electric at the invitation of Fletcher; influence of the work of Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl and Harold D. Arnold. Resumption of graduate studies at University of Chicago in 1919 and recollection of his work there with Michelson and Robert Millikan; change of dissertation topic to investigation of a hearing problem using vacuum tube circuits.