Lot 99: Nobel Prize Winner Robert Millikan 1941 Letter Citing His Book on Cosmic Rays
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: “Just at this moment doing defense work instead of writing more books” ********** MILLIKAN, ROBERT A. (1868-1953 ). American experimental physicist and winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize for his measurement of the elementary electronic charge and his work on the photoelectric effect. TLS. (“R.A. Millikan”). 1p. Small 4to. Pasadena, March 22, 1941. Written on his California Institute of Technology letterhead to notable Civil War scholar and autograph collector ARNOLD F. GATES (1914-1993). ********** “I appreciate very much your birthday message. I got out last year a little book on “Cosmic Rays,” which was published by Macmillans, but am just at this moment doing defense work instead of writing more books…”********** Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 for his work on electron charges and the photoelectric effect, Millikan also conducted important research on “hot spark” spectra and cosmic radiation becoming arguably “the most famous American scientist of his day,” (DSB). Our letter mentions his book Cosmic Rays, published in 1939. ********** From 1921 to 1945, Millikan headed the California Institute of Technology. Under his “leadership it quickly developed into one of the most distinguished scientific centers in the world,” (ibid.). Millikan attracted as visiting faculty such influential scientists as Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Erwin Schrödinger. Beginning in 1940, Caltech scientists began weapons research headed by physicist Charles Lauritsen and coordinated with the National Defense Research Committee. In addition to making pioneering advances in rocketry for the Navy, they participated in the effort to develop an atomic bomb. During the war, Caltech received in excess of $80 billion in federal funding for the research. ********** Gates, a well-respected amateur historian of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, devoted 50 years to researching those subjects, reviewing books for the Lincoln Herald and contributing to such works as the anthology Lincoln for the Ages. He was an avid letter writer and “friend and unofficial agent of many a noted author,” (“Autographica Curiosa: How Not to Impress Emily Post,” Autograph Magazine, Butts). ********** Neatly folded and in fine condition.