In the Matter of Robert Andrews Millikan
Robert A. Millikan was a founder, first leader, first Nobel laureate, and all-around patron saint of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In his day, Millikan was a lionized titan of American science, but his reputation has received critical scrutiny in recent times.1 He has been accused of male chauvinism, antiSemitism, mistreating his graduate students, and—last but not least—scientific fraud. We shall now look into these charges.
Millikan was born in 1868, the son of a Midwestern minister. He attended Oberlin College, got his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University, did some postdoctoral work in Germany, and in the last decade of the nineteenth century took a position at the brand-new University of Chicago in a physics department headed by his idol, A. A. Michelson.
During the next decade, Millikan wrote some very successful textbooks, but he made little progress as a research scientist. This was a period of crucial advancement in physics. J. J. Thomson discovered the electron; Max Planck kicked off the quantum revolution; Albert Einstein produced his theories of special relativity and the photoelectric effect; and Einstein's theoretical work and French physicist Jean Perrin's experiments on Brownian motion established conclusively that matter was made of atoms. Professor Millikan made no contribution to these events. Nearing forty years of age, he became very anxious
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Publication information: Book title: On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science. Contributors: David Goodstein - Author. Publisher: Princeton University Press. Place of publication: Princeton, NJ. Publication year: 2010. Page number: 29.
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