Menu ☰

Back to Top

Physics History Network

Over 1000 biographies of physicists and histories of institutions with information pertaining to their lives, careers, and research.

Tip: Search within this page by using Ctrl + F or ⌘ + F


Search Our Catalogs

Archives Books

Collections

Emilio Segré Visual Archives Digital Collections Oral Histories Archival Finding Aids Physics History Network

Preservation and Support

Donating Materials Saving Archival Collections Grants to Archives Documentation Projects History Newsletters

Center for History of Physics

Scholarship & Outreach

Main Navigation

HomeAboutTopic GuidesFeedback

Table of Contents

Biography

AbstractImportant DatesOccupationPlacesSubjects

Relationships

PeopleInstitutions

Resources

Archival as AuthorArchival as SubjectPublished as AuthorPublished as Subject

William A. Fowler

Photo

Dates

August 9, 1911 – March 14, 1995

Authorized Form of Name

Fowler, William A.

Additional Forms of Names

Fowler, W. A. (William A)

Fowler, William Alfred, 1911-1995

Biography

Abstract

William A. Fowler was Institute Professor of Physics Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology (1936-1995). His research interests included nucleosynthesis and astrophysics.

Important Dates

August 9, 1911Birth, Pittsburgh (Pa.).

1933Obtained BEngPhys, Ohio State University, Columbus (Ohio).

1936Obtained PhD in Physics, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (Calif.).

1936 – 1995Research Fellow in Nuclear Physics (1936-1939); Assistant Professor of Physics (1939-1942); Associate Professor of Physics (1942-1946); Professor of Physics (1946-1970); Scientific Director, Project Vista (1951-1952); Institute Professor of Physics (1970-1982); and Institute Professor of Physics Emeritus (1982-1995), California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (Calif.).

1941Researcher, Section T, Division 4, National Defense Research Committee.

1941 – 1945Assistant Director of Research, Section L, Division 3, National Defense Research Committee.

1944Technical Observer, Office of Field Services, Office of Scientific Research and Development.

1945Acting Supervisor, Naval Ordnance Test Station, United States Navy.

1946Fellow, American Physical Society.

1951 – 1952Scientific Director, Project Vista, California Institute of Technology.

1954 – 1955Guggenheim Fellow, Cambridge University.

1956Member, National Academy of Sciences.

1958 – 1961Member, Council, American Physical Society.

1961 – 1962Guggenheim Fellow, St. Johns College, Cambridge University.

1963Walker-Ames Professor of Physics, University of Washington.

1964Visitor, Cambridge University.

1965 – 1968Member, Council, American Physical Society.

1966Visiting Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

1968 – 1974Member, National Science Board, National Science Foundation.

1970Awarded Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics, American Physical Society.

1970 – 1973Member, Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences.

1971 – 1974Chair, Physics Section, National Academy of Sciences.

1974Awarded National Medal of Science.

1974 – 1977Member, Council, National Academy of Sciences.

1974 – 1980Member, Governing Board (1974-1980) and Member, Executive Committee (1975), American Institute of Physics.

1976President, American Physical Society.

1977 – 1980Member, Space Science Board, National Academy of Sciences.

1977 – 1981Chair (1977-1979) and Member (1977-1981), Nuclear Science Advisory Committee, United States Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.

1978 – 1980Member, Committee on US-Soviet Cooperation in Physics, National Academy of Sciences.

1981 – 1984Chair, Office of Physical Science, National Academy of Sciences.

1983Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics "for his theoretical and experimental studies of the nuclear reactions of importance in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe".

March 14, 1995Death, Pasadena (Calif.).

Occupation

Nuclear astrophysicist.

Places

Birth

Pittsburgh (Pa.)

Undergraduate Education

Columbus (Ohio)

Graduate Education

Pasadena (Calif.)

Employment

Pasadena (Calif.)

Death

Pasadena (Calif.)

Subjects

Astrophysics.

Big bang theory.

Gamma rays.

Nuclear physics.

Nuclear reactions.

Nucleosynthesis.

Quasars.

Radiation.

Relationships

People

Advisors & Collaborators

Anderson, Carl D. (Carl David), 1905-1991

Collaborated on Caltech artillery rocket project for the Navy and both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Clayton, Donald D.

Advised by Fowler at California Institute of Technology.

Lauritsen, Charles Christian, 1892-1968

PhD advisor at California Institute of Technology, "Radioactive elements of a low atomic number," and both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Michel, F. Curtis

PhD advisor at California Institute of Technology.

Mozer, Forrest S., 1929-

Advised by Fowler at California Institute of Technology in Space Plasma Physics.

Tollestrup, Alvin

Advised by Fowler at California Institute of Technology and both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Colleagues

Adelberger, Eric G.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bacher, Robert F. (Robert Fox), 1905-2004

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bahcall, John N.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bardeen, James Maxwell, 1939-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Barish, B. C. (Barry Clark), 1936-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bateman, Harry, 1882-1946

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Boehm, Felix

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bonner, Tom Wilkerson, 1910-1961

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Bowman, J. D. (J. David)

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Brown, Harold, 1927-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Christy, Robert F.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Cole, Julian D.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Dashen, Roger F.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

DuBridge, Lee A. (Lee Alvin), 1901-1994

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

DuMond, Jesse W. M. (Jesse William Monroe), 1892-1976

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Epstein, Paul S. (Paul Sophus), 1883-1966

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Everhart, Thomas E.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Feynman, Richard P. (Richard Phillips), 1918-1988

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Freedman, Daniel Z.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Gates, S. James

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Gell-Mann, Murray

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Glashow, Sheldon L.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Glauber, Roy J., 1925-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Goldberger, Marvin L.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Gordy, Walter, 1909-1985

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Gould, Roy W. (Roy Walter), 1927-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Hellwarth, Robert Willis, 1930-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Holdren, John P.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Houston, W. V. (William Vermillion), 1900-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Kaspi, Victoria Michelle, 1967-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Kimble, H. Jeff (Harry Jeffrey), 1949-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Koonin, Steven E.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Kryder, Mark H.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Lange, Andrew

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Leighton, Robert B.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

McKee, Christopher, 1942-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

McKeown, R. D.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Neddermeyer, Seth H. (Seth Henry), 1907-1988

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Oddone, Piermaria J.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Panofsky, Wolfgang K. H. (Wolfgang Kurt Hermann), 1919-2007

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Politzer, H. David, 1949-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Robertson, H. P. (Howard Percy), 1903-1961

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Schiff, Leonard I. (Leonard Isaac), 1915-1971

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Schwarz, John H.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Sciulli, Frank J.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Spitzer, Frank, 1926-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Teukolsky, Saul A. (Saul Arno), 1947-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Thorne, Kip S.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Tolman, Richard C. (Richard Chace), 1881-1948

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Trilling, George H.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Tsuei, Chang C.

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Will, Clifford M., 1946-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Wilson, Robert Woodrow, 1936-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Wise, Mark B., 1953-

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Zweig, George

Both employed at California Institute of Technology.

Additional

Arp, Halton C.

Barnes, C. A.

Bethe, Hans A. (Hans Albrecht), 1906-2005

Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973

Burbidge, Geoffrey R.

Cameron, A. G. W. (Alastair Graham Walter), 1925-

Caughlan, Georgeanne Robertson, 1916-1994

Chandrasekhar, S. (Subrahmanyan), 1910-1995

Crane, H. R. (Horace Richard), 1907-2007

Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955

Fraser, Lorence

Gamow, George, 1904-1968

Greenstein, Jesse L. (Jesse Leonard), 1909-2002

Hoyle, Fred, 1915-2001

Hutchisson, Elmer, 1902-

Morrison, Philip

Oppenheimer, Frank, 1912-1985

Osterbrock, Donald E.

Page, Don N.

Peierls, Rudolf E. (Rudolf Ernst), 1907-1995

Plaskett, Harry Hemley, 1893-

Salpeter, Edwin E.

Schramm, David N.

Serber, R. (Robert)

Strand, K. Aage (Kaj Aage), 1907-

Tombrello, Thomas A.

Tuve, Merle Antony, 1901-1982

Urey, Harold Clayton, 1893-1981

Wagoner, Robert V.

Whaling, Ward, 1923-

Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000

Institutions

Major Positions

California Institute of Technology. Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Obtained PhD in Physics (1936). Research Fellow in Nuclear Physics; Assistant Professor of Physics; Associate Professor of Physics; Professor of Physics; Scientific Director, Project Vista; Institute Professor of Physics; and Institute Professor of Physics Emeritus.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Physics

Visiting Professor of Physics.

United States. Council of National Defense. National Defense Research Committee

Assistant Director of Research, Section L, Division 3 and Researcher, Section T, Division 4.

United States. Navy. Bureau of Ordnance

Acting Supervisor, Naval Ordnance Test Station.

University of Washington. Department of Physics

Walker-Ames Professor of Physics.

Professional Activities & Affiliations

American Institute of Physics

Member, Governing Board and Member, Executive Committee.

American Physical Society

Member; Fellow; President; and received 1970 Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics.

National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

Member; Member, Space Science Board; Chair, Physics Section; Member, Council; Member, Committee on US-Soviet Cooperation in Physics; and Chair, Office of Physical Science.

National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Member, National Science Board and Chair and Member, Nuclear Science Advisory Committee.

Ohio State University. Department of Physics

Obtained BEngPhys.

United States. Department of Energy

Chair and Member, Nuclear Science Advisory Committee.

United States. Office of Scientific Research and Development

Technical Observer, Office of Field Services.

University of Cambridge. Department of Physics

Guggenheim Fellow and Visitor, St. Johns College.

Resources

Archival Resources

Author

Deuteronomy [sound recording] : the synthesis of deuterons and the light nuclei during the early history of the solar system, 1961 February 2.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Distinguished Speaker Session [sound recording] 1976 April 28.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

General interest session of the Division of Nuclear Physics [sound recording], 1974 February 7.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Joint ceremonial session of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers [sound recording], 1977 February 8.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Joint symposium of the Division of Astrophysics and the Forum for History of Physics [sound recording] / 1987 April 21 & 22.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Kip Thorne interviews conducted for his book "Black Holes and Time Warps," 1980-1989.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with William A. Fowler, 1983 May 3 - May 31, 1984.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with William Alfred Fowler, 1972 June 8, 9, 1973 February 5, 6, and 1974 May 30.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Phyphty years of phun and physics in the W. K. Kellogg Radiation Laboratory at Caltech, by Willy Phowler, 1982.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Symposium of the Division of Nuclear Physics [sound recording] : Thomas Lauritsen Memorial Session / 1974 April 24.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Washington University audiotape collection [sound recordings], 1946-1991.

Libraries. Special Collections

Washington University

Box 1061, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA

William A. Fowler papers, 1917-1995.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Subject

American Astronomical Society Historical Astronomy Division addition to records: obituary files, 1995-1998.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Charles C. Lauritsen papers, 1927-1977 (bulk 1946-1973).

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Donald D. Clayton response to 1988 History of Nuclear Physics Survey, 1988.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Elmer Hutchisson papers, 1919-1982.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Georgeanne Caughlan response to 1988 History of Nuclear Physics Survey, 1988.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Kaj Strand 1895-1999 (bulk 1947-1977).

Manuscript Division

Library of Congress

James Madison Memorial Building, First Street and Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20540, USA

Lee A. DuBridge papers, 1932-1986.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Alastair G. W. Cameron, 2003 February 10.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Alvin Virgil Tollestrup, 1994.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Charles A. Barnes, 1987 July and August.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with David Schramm, 1988 March 29.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Don Page, 1988 May 18.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral History interview with Donald E. Osterbrock, 2003 February 10.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Edwin Ernest Salpeter, 1978 March 30.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Frank Oppenheimer, 1973 February 9 and May 21.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Frank Oppenheimer, 1984 November 16.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Geoffrey Burbidge, 1975 June 4

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Geoffrey Burbidge, 1977 October 21.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Geoffrey R. Burbidge, 1974 November 15.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with H. R. Crane, 1973 March 28 and 1974 June 18.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Halton Christian Arp, 1975 July 29.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Hans Bethe, 1982, 1993.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Harry Hemley Plaskett, 1978 March 29.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Ira Bowen, 1968 August 9 and 1969 August 26.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Jesse Leonard Greenstein, 1974 July 31.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral History interview with Lorence Fraser, 1983 March 9.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Philip Morrison, 1967 February 7.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Robert F. Christy, 1994.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Robert Serber, 1967 February 10.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Robert Serber, 1983 December 19.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Robert Wagoner, 1988 October 14.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Sir Fred Hoyle, 1989 August 15.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Thomas Lauritsen, 1967 February 16.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Oral history interview with Thomas Tombrello, 2010 December 26-31.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Ward Whaling, 1999 April-May.

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Oral history interview with Wolfgang Kurt Hermann Panofsky, 1973 May 15 and 1974 March 6 and June 3.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Physicists I have known, 1974.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Ralph P. Winch student notebooks, 1927-1931.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Thomas Lauritsen papers, 1922-1974 (bulk 1952-1973).

Institute Archives

California Institute of Technology

1201 East California Blvd. (Mail Code 015A-74), Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

William G. Wagner lecture notes, 1958-1962.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives

American Institute of Physics

One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Published Resources

Author

"A Conversation with William A. Fowler, Part I," Physics in Perspective 7 (2005): 66-106

"A Conversation with William A. Fowler, Part II," Physics in Perspective 7 (2005): 165-203

Essays in nuclear astrophysics : presented to William A. Fowler, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday / edited by C.A. Barnes, D.D. Clayton, D.N. Schramm.

Nuclear astrophysics [by] William A. Fowler.

Nucleosynthesis in massive stars and supernovae, by William A. Fowler and F. Hoyle.

Solar neutrinos and neutrino astronomy : (Homestake, 1984) / edited by M.L Cherry and K. Lande and W.A. Fowler.

Subject

"Project Vista, Caltech, and the Dilemmas of Lee DuBridge," Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 34 (2004): 339-370

William A. Fowler Physics Today obituary.