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Jesse W. Beams 1898 - 1977

Jesse Wakefield Beams was born in Belle Plains, Kansas in 1898. He earned his bachelor's degree from Fairmont College (now Wichita State University) in 1921, and a Masters Degree in Mathematics from the University of wisconsin in 1923. After teaching math and physics for a year at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), he decided on a career in physics. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Virginia in 1926. Dr. Beams spent the next three years working with E. O. Lawrence, who was later to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. They performed experiments relevant to the quantized nature of light, and then spent a year in Europe conducting further studies. Beams then returned to the University of Virginia, where he remained on the faculty until his death in 1977.

Dr. Beams' contributions include construction of the first linear electron accelerator, development of the magnetic ultracentrifuge and application of the ultracentrifuge to the separation of Uranium isotopes. He was chairman of the Physics Department from 1948 to 1962 and president of the American Physical Society from 1958 to 1959. From then, early 1960 until his death in 1977 he collaborated with Dr. Donald Kupke on the biological applications of his work. Dr. Beams also devised a more accurate apparatus for measuring G, the universal gravitational constant.

Beams' awards include the National Medal of Science and accompanying certificate, the Howard N. Potts Medal for distinguished work in science or the mechanical arts, and medals from the Atomic Energy Program, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the President of the United States. To the right (or in the neighborhood of this paragraph) is a photograph of Dr. Beams receiving an award from President Johnson.


This is a scanned copy of an exposition designed and assembled by the physics majors and Sigma Pi Sigma members of the Class of 1981,

  • William E. Vanderlinde
  • Michael D. Williams, and
  • Wteven W. Mussey
and shop personnel
  • Michael Epaminondas, and
  • George W. Plum