George W. Stewart Papers
Scope and Contents
- Stewart, George W. (Person)
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Biographical or Historical Information
George Walter Stewart was born on February 22, 1876, in St. Louis, Missouri. His father served as a Methodist minister in several Missouri towns, including Sedalia, Carthage, and Kansas City. After graduating from high school in Kansas City, George worked at the Methodist Book Concern in St. Louis to earn money for college. In 1898, he received his B. A. degree from DePauw University. He took his Ph.D. in 1901 at Cornell University. Stewart received the Doctor of Science honorary degrees from DePauw University (1928) and from the University of Pittsburgh (1931) and from Kalamazoo College (1949). Following graduation at Cornell, Stewart was an assistant in Cornell's physics department from 1899 to 1901 and served as instructor from 1901 to 1903. He served as assistant professor and professor of physics at the University of North Dakota from 1903 to 1909.
Stewart was named head of the State University of Iowa Department of Physics in 1909, where he was successful in establishing a Ph.D. program. Stewart's older brother, Oscar, was head of the Physics Department at the University of Missouri for a number of years. Stewart was involved in the planning and construction of the Physics Building (now MacLean Hall), which was completed in 1912. During World War I, he served the war effort through the National Research Council and as a civilian expert for the United States Navy. From 1923 to 1924 he directed the research work of a group of U. S. Army officers at SUI. His research focused on acoustics, and he developed an acoustic wave filter. His discovery of crystal formations in liquids lead to the development of a high-viscosity motor oil.
Stewart established the Iowa Colloquium of College Physicists in 1936, which attracted prominent scientists such as Erwin Schrodinger, Niels Bohr and H. Lorentz. Stewart was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1938. In 1942 he was the recipient of the Oersted Medal for Notable Contributions to the Teaching of Physics, awarded by the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Among his other contributions at SUI, Stewart served as acting dean of the Graduate College from 1921 to 1922 and served on the board of trustees of the School of Religion for twenty-nine years. Stewart also worked with Carl E. Seashore on the promotion of gifted students through the National Research Council. In 1935, one of his students was James A. Van Allen. According to George H. Ludwig's biographical sketch of Van Allen, Stewart helped Van Allen "obtain an important grant from the private Research Corporation as seed money for research on cosmic rays using balloon-borne equipment." Stewart retired as head of the Physics Department in 1946 and Van Allen was named head in 1951.
Stewart married Dr. Zella Mildred White in 1904 and they had one son, Rodney Cromwell Stewart. George W. Stewart died on August 16, 1956.
Denise Anderson, April 2010
0.75 linear feet
Method of Acquisition
- Denise Anderson, April 2010
- Language of description
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