Percy Williams Bridgman (April 21, 1882 Cambridge, Massachusetts – August 20, 1961) was an American physicist who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He also wrote extensively on scientific method and on other aspects of the philosophy of science.
He entered Harvard University in 1900, studied physics through the Ph.D.. From 1910 until his retirement, he taught at Harvard, becoming a professor in 1919. In 1905, he began investigating the properties of matter under high pressure. A machinery malfunction led him to modify his pressure apparatus; the result was a new device enabling him to create pressures eventually exceeding 100,000 kgf/cm² (10 GPa). This was a huge improvement over previous machinery, which could achieve pressures of only 3000 kgf/cm² (0.3 GPa). This new apparatus led to a plethora of new findings, including on the effect of pressure on electrical resistance, and on the liquid and solid states. Bridgman is also known for his studies of electrical conduction in metals and properties of crystals. He developed the Bridgman seal and is the eponym for Bridgman's thermodynamic equations.
His writings on the philosophy of science advocated operationalism. He was also one of the 11 signatories to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.
After being diagnosed with metastatic cancer, Bridgman committed suicide in 1961.
- 1927. The Logic of Modern Physics. Beaufort Books. Online excerpt.
- 1931. Dimensional Analysis.
- 1936. The Nature of Physical Theory. John Wiley & Sons.
- 1959. The Way Things Are. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1980. Reflections of a Physicist. Arno Press.
- Walter, Maila L., 1991. Science and Cultural Crisis: An Intellectual Biography of Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961). Stanford Univ. Press.
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