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Percy Williams Bridgman

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Title: Percy Williams Bridgman  
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Subject: Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, John Bardeen, Benjamin Osgood Peirce, Nobel Prize in Physics, J. Robert Oppenheimer
Collection: 1882 Births, 1961 Deaths, American Atheists, American Nobel Laureates, American Physicists, Elliott Cresson Medal Recipients, Experimental Physicists, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Harvard University Alumni, Harvard University Faculty, Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences Laureates, Nobel Laureates in Physics, Rheologists, Scientists Who Committed Suicide, Suicides by Firearm in New Hampshire, Thermodynamicists, Winners of the Comstock Prize in Physics
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Percy Williams Bridgman

Percy Williams Bridgman
Born (1882-04-21)21 April 1882
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Died 20 August 1961(1961-08-20) (aged 79)
Randolph, New Hampshire, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Harvard University
Alma mater Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Wallace Clement Sabine
Doctoral students Francis Birch
John C. Slater
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck
Known for High Pressure Physics
Notable awards Rumford Prize (1917)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1932)
Comstock Prize in Physics (1933)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1946)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1949)[1]
Bingham Medal (1951)

Percy Williams Bridgman (21 April 1882 – 20 August 1961) was an American physicist who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on the scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science.[2][3][4]


  • Biography 1
    • Death 1.1
  • Honors and awards 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Bridgman entered Harvard University in 1900, and studied physics through to his Ph.D.. From 1910 until his retirement, he taught at Harvard, becoming a full professor in 1919. In 1905, he began investigating the properties of matter under high pressure. A machinery malfunction led him to modify his pressure apparatus; the result was a new device enabling him to create pressures eventually exceeding 100,000 kgf/cm2 (10 GPa; 100,000 atmospheres). This was a huge improvement over previous machinery, which could achieve pressures of only 3,000 kgf/cm2 (0.3 GPa). This new apparatus led to an abundance of new findings, including a study of the compressibility, electric and thermal conductivity, tensile strength and viscosity of more than 100 different compounds. Bridgman is also known for his studies of electrical conduction in metals and properties of crystals. He developed the Bridgman seal and is the eponym for Bridgman's thermodynamic equations.

Bridgman made many improvements to his high pressure apparatus over the years, and unsuccessfully attempted the synthesis of diamond many times.[5]


Academic offices
Preceded by
Theodore Lyman
Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
Succeeded by
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck

External links

  • Walter, Maila L., 1991. Science and Cultural Crisis: An Intellectual Biography of Percy Williams Bridgman (1882–1961). Stanford Univ. Press.

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Nuland, Sherwin. How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter. Vintage Press, 1995. ISBN 0-679-74244-1.
  8. ^ Ayn Rand Institute discussion on assisted suicide. Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  9. ^ Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization. (2003-06-13). Retrieved on 2012-01-28.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ and Accompanying one photo, exterior, from 1975 PDF (519 KB)
  13. ^ page on bridgmanite. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^


See also

  • 1922. Dimensional Analysis. Yale University Press
  • 1925. A Condensed Collection of Thermodynamics Formulas. Harvard University Press
  • 1927. The Logic of Modern Physics.[15] Beaufort Books. Online excerpt.
  • 1934. Thermodynamics of Electrical Phenomena in Metals and a Condensed Collection of Thermodynamic Formulas. MacMillan.
  • 1936. The Nature of Physical Theory. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1938. The Intelligent Individual and Society. MacMillan.
  • 1941. The Nature of Thermodynamics. Harper & Row, Publishers.
  • 1952. The Physics of High Pressure. G. Bell.
  • 1952. Studies in large plastic flow and fracture: with special emphasis on the effects of hydrostatic pressure, McGraw-Hill
  • 1959. The Way Things Are. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1962. A Sophisticate's Primer of Relativity. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • 1964. Collected experimental papers. Harvard University Press.
  • 1980. Reflections of a Physicist.[16] Arno Press; ISBN 0-405-12595-X


In 2014, the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) approved the name bridgmanite for perovskite-structured (Mg,Fe)SiO3,[13] the Earth's most abundant mineral,[14] in honor of his high-pressure research.

The Percy W. Bridgman House, in Massachusetts, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark designated in 1975.[12]

Bridgman received Doctors, honoris causa from Stevens Institute (1934), Harvard (1939), Brooklyn Polytechnic (1941), Princeton (1950), Paris (1950), and Yale (1951). He received the Bingham Medal (1951) from the Society of Rheology, the Rumford Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1919), the Elliott Cresson Medal (1932) from the Franklin Institute, the Gold Medal from Bakhuys Roozeboom Fund (founder Hendrik Willem Bakhuis Roozeboom) (1933) from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences,[10] and the Comstock Prize (1933) of the National Academy of Sciences.[11] He was a member of the American Physical Society and was its President in 1942. He was also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and Honorary Fellow of the Physical Society of London.

Honors and awards

Bridgman committed suicide by gunshot after living with metastatic cancer for some time. His suicide note read in part, "It isn't decent for society to make a man do this thing himself. Probably this is the last day I will be able to do it myself."[7] Bridgman's words have been quoted by many on both sides of the assisted suicide debate.[8][9]


. Russell–Einstein Manifesto He was also one of the 11 signatories to the [6]

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