Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr. was born on July 12, 1913 in Los Angeles, California. His father Willis Eugene Lamb, born in Minnesota, was by profession a telephone engineer and his mother Marie Helen Metcalf came from Nebraska.
Except for three years schooling in Oakland, Calif., he was educated in the public schools of Los Angeles, Calif. In 1930 he entered the University of California at Berkeley and received a B.S. (Chemistry) in 1934. His graduate work in theoretical physics at the same university led to the Ph.D. degree in 1938. His thesis research on the electromagnetic properties of nuclear systems was directed by Professor J.R. Oppenheimer.
He went to Columbia University as Instructor in Physics in 1938, became an Associate (1943), Assistant Professor (1945), Associate Professor (1947) and Professor in 1948. From 1943 to 1951, he was associated also with the Columbia Radiation Laboratory where the research described in the Nobel Lecture was done. In 1951 he went to Stanford University in California as Professor of Physics. During 1953-1954 he was Morris Loeb Lecturer at Harvard University. From 1956 to 1962 he was a Fellow of New College and Wykeham Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, England. In 1962 he became Henry Ford II Professor of Physics at Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
His research has been on the following subjects: theory of the interactions of neutrons and matter, field theories of nuclear structure, theories of beta decay, range of fission fragments, fluctuations in cosmic ray showers, pair production, order-disorder problems, ejection of electrons by metastable atoms, quadrupole interactions in molecules, diamagnetic corrections for nuclear resonance experiments; theory and design of magneton oscillators, theory of a microwave spectroscope, study of the fine structure of hydrogen, deuterium and helium; theory of electrodynamic energy level displacements.
In 1953 he received the Rumford Premium of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The University of Pennsylvania conferred an honorary degree of D.Sc. upon him in 1954. He received the Research Corporation Award in 1955. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
In 1939 he married Ursula Schaefer, a student from Germany.
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Willis E. Lamb died on 15 May, 2008.
See the full schedule