Archive for William Francis Giauque

A Short (Physical Review) Letter!

Posted in History, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on April 26, 2019 by telescoper

I think it is Blaise Pascal who is to be credited with the quote frequently paraphrased as “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so here’s a long one instead” but, whoever it was, this afternoon’s interesting theoretical physics seminar at Maynooth University about Magnetic Molecules by Jürgen Schnack of Bielefeld University provided a great example of how a short letter can pay off.

William Giauque was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1949 for his work on the properties (including magnetic properties) of matter at very low temperatures. Among the many achievements that led to this award Giauque was the first person to generate matter in a laboratory with a temperature below 1 Kelvin. This result was described in a publication in Physical Review Letters in 1933. Here is the letter in full:

I’ve seen a number of surprisingly short short communications from this era, but I think this one is the record. I’m not sure how many marks this would get as a lab report from an undergraduate physics student, but it doesn’t seem to have done Giauque any harm to keep it extremely brief!

While I’m here I’ll also mention that this also the common practice of awarding the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on the basis of work that is really Physics is clearly not a recent innovation!