American physicist, b. 1868, d. 1953. Millikan entered Oberlin College in 1886, and graduated in 1891. He took a teaching post which sparked his interest in physics. He received his master's degree in physics in 1893. He became a Fellow at Columbia University, and obtained his doctorate in 1895.
After receiving his doctorate, Millikan spent time at the University of Berlin and the University of Göttingen before returning to the States. In 1896, he accepted a position of the University of Chicago, at the invitation of A. A. Michelson. In 1921, he moved to Caltech as the director of the Norman Bridge Laboratory.
Millikan's research included the fields of electricity, optics, and molecular physics. Millikan's most famous discovery, from his "oil-drop" experiment,* was that the charge of an electron is quantized and constant. Other important work included the experimental verification of the photoelectric effect and measurement of Planck's constant, as well as studies of Brownian motion. Towards the end of his career, he did studies on hot-spark spectroscopy and cosmic radiation.
Millikan was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in physics
"for his work on the elementary charge of electricity
and on the photoelectric effect"
* Millikan is cursed by thousands of undergraduate students the world over for this experiment. Repeating it in a modern physics course is reported to cause migraines and temporary blindness.
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