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Frances Wick

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Name  Frances Wick

Frances Wick (October 2, 1875 – June 15, 1941) was an American physicist known for her studies on luminescence.


Early life and education

Wick was born on October 2, 1875 in Butler, Pennsylvania. Her father, Alfred Wick, was an oil producer, an innkeeper, and a store clerk. Together he and her mother, Sarah, had seven children. Wick got her Bachelor's from Wilson College in 1897. When preparing to teach a high school physics class, Wick became interested in physics. In 1904, she decided to leave her job teaching to study physics at Cornell University.

While at Cornell, Wick researched luminescence with the chair at the physics department, Edward Nichols, and his former student, Ernest Merritt, both of which were very supportive of females in physics. While studying organic compounds for her Master's degree, which she received in 1905, Wick focused on the relation between fluorescence and absorption. Wanting to expand her horizons, but still learn about luminescence, Wick studied the electrical properties of silicon for her doctorate. Wick continued to study the fluorescence of uranium compounds, a project funded by the Carnegie Institution.


After receiving her PhD in 1908, Wick became an instructor of physics at Simmons College. She began teaching at Vassar College in 1910, starting off as an instructor, and becoming an assistant professor in 1915, an associate professor in 1919, and a professor in 1922. Wick became the head of Vassar's physics department in 1939. Wick continued her research on luminescence by studying the luminescent properties of various media such as cathode rays, X-rays, radium rays, heat, and friction.

Because Wick worked at small women's colleges, her resources with which to perform research were limited. Therefore, she did research over the summer in other laboratories at General Electric, Harvard University, Cornell University, University of Cambridge, Berlin, and Vienna. Wick also worked on gun sights and radio equipment with the Signal Corps during World War I.


  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Fellow of the The Optical Society
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Member of the American Association of University Women
  • Member of the American Association of Physics Teachers
  • Member of the American Association of University Professors
  • Member of the Cornell Club of New York
  • Member of the Wilson Club of New York City
  • Alumnae Trustee and Trustee for Wilson College
  • Sigma Xi
  • Sigma Delta Epsilon
  • References

    Frances Wick Wikipedia

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