Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 449-451


Compton, Arthur Holly

  • Matteo LeoneAffiliated withDipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’Educazione, Università di Torino Email author 
  • , Nadia RobottiAffiliated withDipartimento di Fisica, Università di Genova

BornWooster, Ohio, USA, 10 August 1892

DiedBerkeley, California, USA, 15 March 1962

American physicist Arthur Compton received the 1927 Nobel Prize (shared with C. T. R. Wilson, 1869–1959) in Physics for discovering the effect that bears his name. In the Compton effect, X-rays are scattered by individual electrons, with some of the energy of the X-rays being transferred to the electrons. Some modern detectors for γ rays and X-rays from astronomical objects make use of Compton scattering.

Compton was the son of a Presbyterian minister and professor of philosophy, Elias, and Otelia Catherine (née Augspurger) Compton. His older brother, Karl Taylor Compton (1887–1954), then president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, turned Arthur’s interests from engineering to physics. As a student at Wooster College (bachelor’s degree: 1913), Arthur invented and built a device (which he later improved) for measuring the rotation rate of the Earth and the observer’s latitude from inside a close ...

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