JOHN KING, Francis L Friedman Professor of Physics, Emeritus

John G. King
Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics, Emeritus

In Memoriam: August 1925 - June 2014


Area of Physics:

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Honors and Awards

  • Alfred P. Sloan Award, 1956
  • AAPT Apparatus Competition prize, 1961
  • AAPT Robert Millikan Medal, 1965
  • E. Harris Harbison Award, 1971
  • University of Hartford, Honorary DSc, 1972
  • AAPT Oersted Medal, 2000
  • APS Excellence in Physics Education Award, 2007

Research Interests

  • Used atomic beam magnetic resonance methods to study the hyperfine structure and nuclear moments of various atoms. Found the first nuclear magnetic octupole interaction.
  • Began developing methods for decelerating neutral molecules.
  • Studied superfluids with atomic beam methods: helium II and type 2 superconductors.
  • Began development of molecule microscope.
  • Studied biological tissue by observing water transport.
  • Carried out null experiments: looking for continuously created hydrogen, trying to see how close to zero the charge of the neutron and the sum of the charges on the proton and electron are, looking for monopoles, quarks, etc.
  • Over 100 undergraduate and 25 doctoral students got degrees working on these topics.

Biographical Sketch

Born London, UK 1925—Ecole communale France ‘29-‘36—Secondary school, Switzerland ’37-‘38, USA ’39-’43—Undergrad MIT ’43—US Army ’43-’44—US Navy ’44-’46—Harvard Underwater Sound Lab, 44—Undergrad MIT ’46-’50, SB—Grad School MIT ’50-’53, PhD— Instructor ’53-’55, Asst Prof ’55-’58, Assoc Prof ’58-’65, Prof ’65-‘74, Francis L Friedman Prof ’74-’96—Retired ‘96

  • Formerly in charge of undergraduate physics laboratories at MIT, former Associate Director of the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, and director and principal investigator at the RLE Molecular Beam Lab.
  • Taught large lectures to freshmen and sophomores, as well as specialized graduate courses.
  • Directed all undergraduate physics labs, and introduced new experiments including vacuum tubes made with the solder-glass technique.
  • Ran undergraduate seminars in which solder-glass tubes were built by students to amplify signals, measure e/m and e for electrons, etc.
  • Started the Physics Project Lab in 1964, which, over 30 years, allowed over 2000 students to do experiments of their own choosing.
  • Made 8 educational physics movies, among these 3 for the PSSC high school physics program. 
  • Began the Corridor Lab (COL) in 1970, in which experiments accessible at all times can be assigned or performed by any interested passerby.
  • Developed a Concentrated Study course  (COS) in which 20 students work on a single subject (taking no other) for 20 days, each day starting with 1-1/2 hours of experiment and project, followed by 1-1/2 hours of group discussion. One-hour meetings of pairs of students (they work in partnership) occupy the instructor’s afternoons. Taught COS at MIT, Rust College, Mississippi, and Fudan University, Shanghai.
  • Recently developed introductory mechanics and E&M courses with take home kits to perform experiments in the students’ living quarters.
  • Consulted on many topics, including the development of atomic clocks, the investigation of space capsule reentry problems, the development of playgrounds with technological features.

Selected Publications

  • Phys. Rev. 94, 1798 - 1799 (1954)
    Hyperfine Structure of I127— Nuclear Magnetic Octupole Moment
    With V. Jaccarino, R. A. Satten and H. H. Stroke
  • Phys. Rev. 142, 53 - 59 (1966)
    Hyperfine Structure and Octupole Interaction in Stable Bromine Isotopes
    With Howard Howland Brown
  • Phys. Rev. Lett. 26, 735 - 737 (1971)
    Measurement of Helium-Helium Scattering Cross Section at Low Temperatures
    With Daniel E. Oates
  • Phys. Rev. Lett. 26, 969 - 972 (1971)
    Atomic-Beam Observations of the Magnetic Field Outside a Type-II Superconductor
    With Truman R. Brown
  • Phys. Rev. Lett. 51, 1538 - 1541 (1983)
    Experimental Investigation of Small Helium Clusters: Magic Numbers and the Onset of Condensation
    With Peter W. Stephens
  • Nature 222, 261 - 263 (19 April 1969)
    Molecular Scanner
    With William R. Bigas
  • PNAS October 1, 1973   vol. 70 no. 10 2781-2784
    The Molecule Microscope: A New Instrument for Biological and Biomedical Research
    With James C. Weaver
  • AJP - Renal Physiology, Vol 236, Issue 4 413-F418, 1979
    Use of mass spectrometer to measure CO2 and O2 fluxes in voltage-clamped epithelia
    With S. J. Rosenthal and A. Essig
  • Journal of Membrane Biology Volume 63, Number 3 157-163 October, 1981
    Time course of active Na transport and oxidative metabolism following transepithelial potential perturbation in toad urinary bladder
    With Stanley J. Rosenthal and Alvin Essig
  • Nature 222, 1158 - 1159 (21 June 1969)
    Search for Hydrogen appearing in Mercury Metal
    With Samuel A. Cohen
  • Phys. Rev. A 7, 1224 - 1229 (1973)
    Neutrality of Molecules by a New Method
    With H. Frederick Dylla
  • American Journal of Physics, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp. 473-478 (1964).
    Experiences with Solder Glass and Students
  • Am. J. Phys. 34, 1058 (1966).
    The Undergraduate Physics Laboratory and Reality
    1966 Millikan Medal Speech
  • Society for Research into Higher Education  (London) 1971
    Concentrated study: A pedagogic innovation observed (ISBN 0900868139) 1971
    With Malcolm R. Parlett
  • American Journal of Physics -- January 2001 -- Volume 69, Issue 1, pp. 11-25
    Observation, Experiment, and the Future of Physics
    2000 Oersted Medal Speech
  • The Physics Teacher, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp. 29-35 (2008)
    Physics of Incandescent Lamp Burnout
    With Paul Gluck

Last updated on April 16, 2015 4:12 PM