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Nichols, Ernest Fox, 1869-1924



  • Existence: 1869 June 1 - 1924 April 29


Ernest Fox Nichols, 1869-1924, was an American educator and physicist, as well as the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1921-1922 [1].

Born in Kansas, Nichols earned his BS from Kansas Agricultural College in 1888, and later achieved his MS and Doctorate degree from Cornell in 1893 and 1897, respectively. During his time as professor of physics at Colgate College (1892-1897), Nichols would spend two years studying wave radiation at the University of Berlin [2]. The results of his research on the infrared were put into English, and his Nichols' radiometer was made for future experiments in measuring radiation pressure [2].

Nichols held professorships of experimental physics at Dartmouth from 1898-1903, and later at Columbia University in New York from 1903-1909, all before returning to Dartmouth as the college's 10th President in 1909 [1].

Nichols, in an effort to return to his passion of scientific research, left his administration position at Dartmouth, and in 1916 started a professorship of physics at Yale [2]. His research would be halted by the onset of the first World War, and Nichols soon was attached to a position as Director of the Nela Park Laboratory in Cleveland, in yet another effort to "work in pure science" [2].

In 1920, after the death of Richard Cockburn Maclaurin, MIT called upon Nichols to become the Institute's next President. Almost immediately following his inaugural address, Nichols would become too ill from heart disease to enter actively into his responsibilities at MIT [1]. When his health did recover, he turned his attention toward the Laboratory in Cleveland, resigning from his post as Institute President in 1922.

Ernest Fox Nichols died on April 29th, 1924.

1. "ERNEST FOX NICHOLS, 1869-1924" MIT Libraries (October 2004) 2. E.L. Nichols, "Ernest Fox Nichols, 1869-1924" National Academy of Sciences (1929)


Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Dugald C. Jackson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0005
Abstract The collection documents the career of Dugald C. Jackson, a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1907 to 1935. Correspondence, reports, and other materials document Jackson's years as head of the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering, his innovations in the department and the undergraduate curriculum, the establishment of a cooperative education program (course 6-A), and his work on MIT committees. His work as a consulting engineer and inventor is...
Dates: 1878 - 1952

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Inaugural Committee records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0036
Scope and Contents of the Collection The collection consists of records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) president inaugural committees since 1900. The records are primarily documents with some photographs and memorabilia. The inaugurations of Henry Pritchett, Richard Maclaurin, Ernest F. Nichols, and Samuel Wesley Stratton are documented in notebooks which contain minutes of committee and subcommittee meetings and copies of inaugural addresses. The inaugurations of James R. Killian, Julius A. Stratton,...
Dates: 1900 - 2005

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0013
Abstract The collection documents the administration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the responsibilities and activities of the Institute's presidents between 1897 and 1930. This was a period of enormous growth and development of the Institute, which was chartered in 1861 and graduated its first class of undergraduates in 1868. There is correspondence about the proposed merger with Harvard University in 1904 and a proposed alliance in 1911. The purchase of land, the planning...
Dates: 1883 - 1941; Majority of material found within 1897 - 1931