Frederick Seitz: Wikis


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Frederick Seitz
Born July 4, 1911(1911-07-04)
San Francisco, California, USA
Died March 2, 2008 (aged 96)
New York City, New York, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Illinois
Rockefeller University
Doctoral advisor Eugene Wigner
Known for Wigner-Seitz unit cell

Frederick Seitz (July 4, 1911–March 2, 2008) was an American physicist and a pioneer of solid state physics. Seitz studied under Eugene Wigner at Princeton University, graduating in 1934. He, along with Wigner, came up with the concept of the Wigner-Seitz unit cell. Seitz was president of the United States National Academy of Sciences 1962-1969.[1] He also founded the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as several other material research laboratories across the United States.[2][3]



Born in San Francisco on July 4, 1911, Seitz graduated from Lick-Wilmerding High School in the middle of his senior year. He went on to study physics at Stanford University obtaining his bachelor's degree in three years, and then moved to Princeton University to study metals under Eugene Wigner. He and Wigner pioneered one of the first quantum theory of crystals, and developed concepts such as the Wigner-Seitz unit cell.[2]

After graduate studies, Seitz continued to work on solid state physics, publishing The Modern Theory of Solids in 1940, motivated by a desire to "write a cohesive account of the various aspects of solid-state physics in order to give the field the kind of unity it deserved". The Modern Theory of Solids helped unify and understand the relations between the fields of metallurgy, ceramics, and electronics. He was also a consultant on many World War II related projects in metallurgy, radiation damage to solids and electronics amongst others. He, along with Hillard Huntington, made the first calculation of the energies of formation and migration of vacancies and interstitials in copper, inspiring many works on point defects in metals.[2]

He was the president of Rockefeller University from 1968 to 1978 during which he helped to launch new research programs in molecular biology, cell biology, and neuroscience as well as creating a joint MD-PhD program with Cornell University. Shortly before his retirement from Rockefeller University in 1979, Seitz began working as a paid permanent consultant for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, advising their research program.[4]. In a discussion of the dangers of secondary inhalation of tobacco smoke, he concluded "there is no good scientific evidence that passive inhalation is truly dangerous under normal circumstances."[5] Philip Morris attorney Alexander Holtzman described Seitz in a 1989 internal memo as "quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice."[6]

Seitz was a founder of the George C. Marshall Institute and was chairman of its board. In 1994, the Institute published a paper by Seitz titled Global warming and ozone hole controversies: A challenge to scientific judgment. He questioned the view that CFCs "are the greatest threat to the ozone layer".[7].

Seitz questioned whether global warming is anthropogenic.[8] He supported the position of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) on global warming and in an open letter invited scientists to sign the OISM's global warming petition. Seitz also signed the 1995 Leipzig Declaration. Critics say he used the same "uncertainty" tactic to challenge global warning that he had used effectively at R.J. Reynolds to confuse the cancer/smoking link debate.[9]

Seitz died March 2, 2008 in New York.[10][11]

Positions held


  • Frederick Seitz On the Frontier, My Life in Science (American Institute of Physics, 1994)
  • Nikolaus Riehl and Frederick Seitz Stalin’s Captive: Nikolaus Riehl and the Soviet Race for the Bomb (American Chemical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundations, 1996) ISBN 0-8412-3310-1.
This book is a translation of Nikolaus Riehl’s book Zehn Jahre im goldenen Käfig (Ten Years in a Golden Cage) (Riederer-Verlag, 1988); but Seitz wrote a lengthy introduction. It contains 58 photographs.



  1. ^ Seitz was elected to the NAS in 1951 and served as president from 1962-1969. He was the first NAS president to serve in a full-time capacity, beginning in 1965. [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l E. Goldwasser, A.V. Granato, R.O. Simmons (2008). "Frederick Seitz". Physics Today 61 (7): 66–67. doi:10.1063/1.2963019.  
  3. ^ "The 1950s in the Departement of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign".  
  4. ^ "Tobacco Documents".  
  5. ^ "Tobacco Control - Sign In Page".  
  6. ^ Memorandum from Alexander Holtzman to Bill Murray, August 31, 1989. Philip Morris Inter-Office Corrospondence.
  7. ^ "A Conversation with Dr. Frederick Seitz".  
  8. ^ "GIVE TITLE".  
  9. ^ "Denial of Global Warming".  
  10. ^ J.L. Bast. "Report #2 from the Global Warming Conference in New York City".  
  11. ^ D. Hevesi (2008-03-06). "Frederick Seitz, 96, Dies; Physicist Who Led Skeptics of Global Warming". The New York Times. p. C12.  
  12. ^ "Saxonburg Cyclotron 50th Reunion".  
  13. ^ "Richard Lounsbery Foundation".  
  14. ^ "physica status solidi: Meet the Board Members".  

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Frederick Seitz (July 4, 1911March 2, 2008) was an American physicist and a pioneer of solid state physics. Seitz studied under Eugene Wigner at Princeton University, graduating in 1934. He, along with Wigner, came up with the concept of the Wigner-Seitz unit cell used in the study of crystalline properties of materials. Seitz was president of the United States National Academy of Sciences (1962-1969).


  • The trouble is that you won't get the scientists to agree on a course of action. It is almost instinctive in science to accept contrary views, because disagreeing gives you guidance to experimental tests of ideas - your own and those offered by others….
    • explaining his opinion on why "the most beneficial kinds of research won't get done because the most politically attractive research will get the funding instead", in an interview for the George C. Marshall Institute, which took place on September 3, 1997.

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