MTU Physics Department History | 1901-1916

The Tamarack Mine Experiments

Man Car PhotoThe mine shafts which existed in the vicinity of the College provided a unique opportunity for physics research. This was particularly so for the Tamarack Mine shafts which were vertical and almost a mile deep. In 1901 the Physics faculty (McNairFisher, Osborne, and Grant) along with John B. Watson, chief engineer, and George Slock, assistant engineer, of the Tamarack mining company,1 began experiments using long pendulums (pendula) as plumb bobs in the #2, #4, and #5 shafts of the Tamarack Mine. The goal of these measurements was to transfer a reference line from the surface to aid future horizontal drilling operations. Being physicists, one of the first results which shows up in the lab notebook is the period of the pendulum, a result which is largely irrelevant for use as a plumb bob.

The first pendulums were made with #24 steel piano wire and 50 pound cast iron weights and were hung 4,250 feet down shaft #5. The period of these pendulums was 70 seconds. The weight actually stretched the wire about 15 feet. For some measurements the weights were placed in oil or water to help damp the motion though this was insufficient to completely stop the motion.2 They typically used multiple measurements of the oscillating pendulums “as in the method of determining the zero point of a balance by observing the oscillations of its pointer,” rather than waiting for the motion to stop.

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MTU Physics Department History | 1885-1900

The Earliest Years

Firehall PhotoMichigan Tech had its beginnings in 1885 as the Michigan Mining School (MMS) offering a two-year mining program. The first classes were held in the Fall of 1886 in the Continental Fire Hall, which still stands next to the old Portage Lake District Library on Montezuma Avenue in downtown Houghton, MI. Course offerings in Physics, to be taught by the Physics Department, were listed starting in 1887 however there was not yet a Physics Department faculty to teach them. Those first Physics course offerings were to be “temporarily performed by the present members of the Faculty.”

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The Changing MTU Campus

The Changing MTU Campus

Firehall in 2004

The first classes were held using leased space in the Continental Fire Hall in downtown Houghton. This building still stands and is currently being used for storage. It can be seen on Montezuma avenue, right next to the old Portage Lake District Library. This photo is from the summer of 2004.
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MTU Physics Department History | Scholarships/Awards

MTU Endowed Scholarships/Awards with a Physics Connection

Scholarships/Awards Named for Former Faculty

Potnis Endowed Fellowship
Kusum Potnis established the Vasant R. Potnis Endowed Fellowship fund in memory of her late husband and physics professor emeritus. Dr. Potnis was a faculty member from 1968 until his retirement in 1996; he passed away in 2012. The Fellowship will provide financial support for graduate students pursuing a Master’s or PhD in physics.

Lloyal O. Bacon Endowed Award
Bacon was a Physics Department Faculty member, specializing in Geophysics, from 1950 to 1974 when the geophysics major was moved to the Geology department. He earned the Distinguished Research Award in 1960.

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MTU Physics Department History | Hubbell Hall

Hubbell Hall was completed in 1890 and housed the entire Michigan Mining School for several years. It was located at the intersection of Hubbell St. and College Ave, where the R. L. Smith (MEEM) building now stands. Hubbell Hall was the home for Physics and Math from the time it was built until 1964, when those departments moved to Fisher Hall. Hubbell Hall was demolished in 1968 having been condemned by the fire marshall as unsuitable for human occupation (even by Physicists).

Ted Ellis Hubbell Hall Photo
Hubbell Hall just before its demolition
photo by MTU alum Ted Ellis, reproduced with permission.


MTU Physics Department History | Jerry Hall Service

Jerry Hall Service

b. 12 June 1888, New Carlisle, IN
d. 3 Sept 1980, Eugene, OR

BS in EE, Rose Polytechnic, 1912
MS, Ohio State University, 1917
(Thesis Title: Effect of Introduction of an Obstacle into a Spark Gap)
PhD, Ohio State University, 1928
(Thesis Title: The Transmission of Sound through Sea Water)

Engineering Apprentice, GE Co., 1912
Teacher, Morgan Park Academy. MN, 1913-1915
Asst. in Physics, Ohio State, 1915-1917
US Army School of Aeronautics, Ohio, 1917-1918
Dean, Trade and Eng. Schools, Youngstown Inst. Tech, 1920-1923
Engineer and Physicist, US Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1923-1928
Prof. Physics and Math, Henderson State Teachers Coll., AR, 1928-1932
Asst. Prof. Math and Physics, MCMT, 1932-1938
Assoc. Prof. Math and Physics, MCMT, 1938-1946
(On leave 1940-1946 during WW II, USN)
Prof. Physics, MCMT, 1947-1952

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MTU Physics Department History | A. Barry Kunz

A. Barry Kunz

b. 2 Oct 1940, Philadelphia, PA
d. 29 Jan 2001, Marquette, MI

B.S. Physics, Muhlenberg College, 1962.
M.S. Physics, Lehigh University, 1964.
Ph.D. Physics, Lehigh University, 1966.

Instructor and Research Assoc., Lehigh U., 1966-1969
Research Asst. Prof, U of Illinois, 1969-1971
Research Analyst, USAF Aerospace Res. Lab, 1971-1974
Assistant Prof., U of Illinois, 1971-1973
Consultant, Photo Products, E.J. Dupont, 1974-1979
Assoc. Prof., U of Illinois, 1973-1976
Professor, U of Illinois, 1976-1984
Adj. Prof., Michigan Tech Univ., 1982-1984
Presidential Prof., Physics, MTU, 1984-1990
Presidential Prof., Elec. Eng., MTU, 1990-2001
Dean of Engineering, MTU, 1990-1991

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