Michelson, Albert, CDR

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Last Rank
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1919-1921, 9th Naval District
Service Years
1869 - 1881

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember Michelson, Albert (Nobel Prize in Physics), CDR.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Virginia City NV and San Francisco CA
Last Address
Died 9 May 1931 in Pasadena, Calif.

Date of Passing
May 09, 1931
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1907
Recalled to active service during WWI USNRF

In the nineteenth century American professors' salaries would seldom support a dignified style of life, and to be a proper physics professor it was usually necessary to inherit wealth or marry it. It was less necessary to have a doctorate—as late as 1900 only a minority of professors had the Ph.D.—and physicists could set out with any sort of training. Albert A. Michelson's background, which seems odd to modern eyes, was not surprising in his own times.

Albert Abraham Michelson was born in Strelno, Prussia, (later Strzelno, Poland), son of a Jewish merchant, on December 19, 1852. Two years later his family emigrated to the United States to settle at Virginia City, Nevada, but they eventually moved to San Francisco where Michelson received his early education in public schools, matriculating from the High School in 1869. He was appointed by President Grant to the U.S. Naval Academy, 28 June 1869, and after graduation as Ensign in 1873 and a two-years' cruise in the West Indies and the North Atlantic Station in Worcester and Constellation, he became an instructor in physics and chemistry at the Academy under Admiral Sampson. There he prepared a paper “On a Method of Measuring the Velocity of Light” which won him worldwide recognition.

He was commissioned master 5 March 1879, and posted to the Nautical Almanac Office, Washington, to work with Simon Newcomb, but in the following year, he obtained leave of absence to continue his studies in Europe. He visited the Universities of Berlin and Heidelberg, and the College de France and École Polytechnique in Paris. He resigned from the Navy, 30 September 1881, and in 1883 returned to America to take an appointment as Professor of Physics in the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, Ohio. In 1890 he accepted a similar position at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, and in 1892 he became Professor of Physics and the first Head of Department at the new University of Chicago. He rejoined the Navy during World War I, and in 1918 returned to Chicago where in 1925 he was appointed to the first of the Distinguished Service Professorships. Michelson resigned in 1929 to work at the Mount Wilson Observatory, Pasadena.

Although Michelson resigned from the Navy in 1881 to pursue a career in physics, he remained dedicated to and involved with the Navy. From 1891 to 1919, Michelson designed for the Bureau of Ordnance optical range-finders and ear protectors, which were patented and later used for ear protection during gunfire. From 1895-1900, he served as commander of the First Battalion of the Illinois Naval Reserve, which he helped organize. During World War I, Michelson was the head of the scientific research committee at the University of Chicago and served as a lieutenant commander with the Bureau of Ordnance as a scientific consultant during the closing months of World War I. Appointed commander in the Reserve in May 1919, he was recalled briefly to active duty in the 9th Naval District. Commander Michelson was released from the Navy 30 September 1921 from the Naval Coast Defense Reserve and after another decade of significant research into the properties of light, died 9 May 1931 in Pasadena, Calif. 

USNS Michelson was named in honor of CDR Albert A. Michelson, USNRF (United States Naval Reserve Forces).
Other Comments:
Born December 19, 1852
Strzelno, Kingdom of Prussia (Poland)(1852-12-19)
Died May 9, 1931(1931-05-09) (aged 78)
Pasadena, California
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions Case Western Reserve University
Clark University
University of Chicago
Alma mater United States Naval Academy
University of Berlin
Doctoral advisor Hermann Helmholtz
Doctoral students Robert Millikan
Known for Speed of light
Michelson-Morley experiment
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physics (1907)
Copley Medal (1907)
Henry Draper Medal (1916)
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 Duty Stations
US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)US NavyCommander, US Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM)Naval Observatory, CNO - OPNAV
CNO - OPNAVBureau of Ordnance9th Naval District
  1869-1873, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
  1873-1874, USS Worcester
  1873-1875, North Atlantic Fleet, Commander, US Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM)
  1874-1875, USS Constellation (1854) Sloop of War
  1875-1879, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
  1879-1880, Naval Observatory, CNO - OPNAV
  1881-1883, CNO - OPNAV
  1881-1918, Broken Service
  1918-1919, Bureau of Ordnance
  1919-1921, 9th Naval District
 Colleges Attended 
United States Naval Academy
  1869-1873, United States Naval Academy
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  Oct 25, 2013, General Photos
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