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Fowler, William Alfred (Physicist, Nobel Laureate)



  • Existence: 1911 - 1995


Background: Professor of Physics, 1939-1982; Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1983; Caltech alumnus (PhD, 1936).
Biographical/Historical Description: William A. Fowler was born in Lima, Ohio, and educated at Ohio State University and at Caltech. For much of his career, Fowler was the acknowledged leader in the research area of astrophysics. Fowler's work in nuclear physics began in the 1930s while working with Charles C. Lauritsen and, slightly later, with Fred Hoyle. In 1983, Fowler received the Nobel prize in physics, with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, for his theoretical and experimental studies of nuclear reactions in the formation of the chemical elements in the universe. During World War II Fowler worked closely with C. C. Lauritsen on Caltech's rocket project for the US navy. In the postwar era, he was head of Project Vista, a study of strategic weapons.
Biographical/Historical Collection Notes: Oral history, 1983-84; 1986. This 154 page interview covers a broad range of Fowler's professional activities and professional life. A 15-page supplemental oral history completed in 1986 provides further discussion of the climate at Caltech during World War II and the rocket project undertaken for the US navy.

Papers: 213 boxes, 94 linear feet. Papers cover personal and professional life during years 1917-1994. Extensive material from World War II and some coverage of Project Vista.

Photo of William A. Fowler at the Nobel banquet (PhotoNet)

Found in 33 Collections and/or Records:

Airtalk: Caltech Edition

Identifier: 1989-00167

Airtalk: The Caltech Edition

Identifier: 1989-00166

AirTalk with Lee Browne, Pamela Fong, and William A. Fowler, 1989-05-24

Scope and Contents From the Collection: The collection is divided according to the recording type: audio and video then ordered chronologically. Each recording includes an interview with either Caltech faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni, JPL scientists or administrators. It also includes features such as Caltech Almanac -a detailed look at some of the many interesting people, places and discoveries in Caltech’s history-, Caltech Calendar -a listing of upcoming public events on campus- and Caltech in the News....
Dates: 1989-05-24

Birthday Celebration

Identifier: 1986-00217

Dosimeter, pocket

Identifier: 1995-00111

William A. Fowler Papers

Identifier: 10070-MS
Abstract These papers document the career of William A. Fowler, who served on the physics faculty at California Institute of Technology from 1939 until 1982. Focusing heavily on nuclear physics and astrophysics, the Fowler papers form a rich and important collection for the history of physics, and illustrate the politics and sociology of science in the twentieth century. They also contain substantial material on Caltech's World War II rocket developments, plus documents on Project Vista, a Cold-War...
Dates: 1917-1994

In The Beginning Was Hydrogen

Identifier: 1991-00067

In The Beginning Was Hydrogen

Identifier: 1991-00068

Memorial Observance

Identifier: 1995-00108

Memorial Observance

Identifier: 1996-00030

Nobel Award Dinner

Identifier: 1986-00219

Portrait of William Fowler

Identifier: 2005-00034