Carnegie Mellon University receives Nobel Laureate Clifford Shull papers

03/15/04

Grant and additional gift will make the collection available to researchers

Carnegie Mellon University has received the papers of Nobel Laureate Clifford Glenwood Shull as a gift from the Shull family. In 1994 Shull and Canadian physicist Bertram N. Brockhouse were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their individual work with neutron-scattering techniques. Shull died in March 2001. Citing their father's early influences at Carnegie Tech and his subsequent lifelong commitment to Carnegie Mellon University, Shull's sons, John C. Shull, Dr. Robert D. Shull and William F. Shull, gave the Nobel Laureate's papers to Carnegie Mellon University Archives in 2003.

The American Institute of Physics recently awarded Carnegie Mellon University Archives an $8,000 grant to preserve and catalog the Shull Collection for research use. Additional funding pledged by the Shull family will digitize the archive and make it available to researchers on the Internet.

"The scientific papers of Clifford Shull are a real treasure to have at Carnegie Mellon. Even a brief look at part of the collection gives one an appreciation of the combination of careful, intensive work and clearly stated insights that are essential components of Shull's Nobel Prize-winning research," said Fred Gilman, professor and head of the department of physics.

The Shull Collection dates from approximately 1937 to 1986, and includes papers, photographs and some videos. The materials span Shull's entire professional career, from his undergraduate work at Carnegie Tech until his retirement.

Among projects represented in the collection are Shull's creation of the first neutron Laue photograph, his discovery (with J. Samuel Smart of the Naval Research Lab) of antiferromagnetism, his mapping of hydrogen atom locations within palladium, his work with Robert Nathans in Brookhaven National Laboratory concerning the magnetic structure of the Fe3Al compound, and his Nobel Prize-winning research with Ernie Wollan on the crystal structure of ice and water.

Shull's role as a teacher is also represented in the collection. Class notes describing his teaching of various physics courses provide deep insight into the training and work of his students, many of whom are now at the forefront of neutron scattering. Shull's influence as both professor and researcher is displayed in correspondence between Shull and his students and colleagues, including Ralph Moon, Mike Wilkinson, Costas Stassis, Dave Moncton, Gen Shriane, Phil Anderson, Bert Brockhouse, Michel Schlenker, Anton Zeilinger, Mike Horne and Sam Werner.

Shull was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1915. Upon graduation from Schenley High School, he was awarded a half-tuition scholarship at Carnegie Tech. Shull always cited Tech physics professors Harry Hower and Emerson Pugh as influential mentors; Pugh specifically for assisting in his application to and being accepted by New York University for graduate studies in physics in 1937. While at NYU, Shull helped Frank Myers in construction of a 400 keV Van de Graff generator to repeat earlier electron-double-scattering (EDS) experiments. Data gathered from these experiments was the basis for Shull's doctoral thesis. He was granted his doctorate in nuclear physics in 1941. Invited by the U.S. government to participate in the Manhattan Project, Shull instead spent the early years of his career at the Texas Co. (known today as Texaco) and the Clinton Laboratories (now known as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory). At the Clinton Laboratories, Shull met Ernie Wollan, who had been experimenting with neutron scattering. Shull and Wollan built on Wollan's initial experiments to measure neutron coherent scattering amplitudes of practically all the known elements, extending the work to the study of magnetic materials.

In 1956 Shull accepted a teaching position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a professor in the Physics Department for 30 years. Shull mentored several generations of influential physicists, often incorporating hands-on work with MITR-I, MIT's on-campus research reactor. Shull retired from teaching in 1986.

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