Photo of John C. Slater

John C. Slater

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For wide-ranging contributions to the basic theory of atoms, molecules, and matter in the solid form.

In the 1930s, scientists in the United States felt a certain inferiority about the advancements of their European peers. As a result, many young physicists often traveled abroad to finish their educations.

While serving as chair of MIT’s department of physics, John C. Slater reversed this trend, recasting the school’s curriculum to compete with foreign universities.

Between 1933 and 1968, he wrote 14 books. Among those texts, “Microwave Transmission” was regarded as a bible for designers of radar during World War II.

After the war, Slater built MIT’s post-war department, preparing for an influx of aspiring physicists.

“The war had physics to the attention of the public, of industry and government, as had never happened before,” he wrote in a memoir.

In a world focused on nuclear and high energy physics, Slater – while continuing his own research in molecular structure – began some of the best programs in the country for electronics, X-rays, optics and acoustics.

By John Slater