Merle Anthony Tuve
Tuve, 1946
Born(1901-06-27)June 27, 1901
DiedMay 20, 1982(1982-05-20) (aged 80)
Alma mater
Scientific career
InstitutionsJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (1942-1946)
Carnegie Institution for Science (1946-66)

Merle Anthony Tuve (June 27, 1901 – May 20, 1982) was an American geophysicist who was the Chairman of the Office of Scientific Research and Development's Section T, which was created in August 1940.[1] He was founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the main laboratory of Section T during the war from 1942 onward.[2] He was a pioneer in the use of pulsed radio waves whose discoveries opened the way to the development of radar and nuclear energy.[3]


Merle Antony Tuve was born in Canton, South Dakota.[4] He and physicist Ernest Lawrence were childhood friends. All four of his grandparents were born in Norway and subsequently immigrated to the United States. His father, Anthony G. Tuve, was president of Augustana College and his mother, Ida Marie Larsen Tuve, taught music there. After Tuve's father died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, the family moved to Minneapolis, where Merle attended the University of Minnesota; he received there a Bachelor of Science in 1922 and an Master of Science in 1923 both in Physics. Following a year at Princeton University where he was an instructor, Tuve subsequently went to work for his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. He obtained there his PhD in physics in 1927.[5]


In 1925, with physicist Gregory Breit, Tuve used radio waves to measure the height of the ionosphere and probe its interior layers.[6] The observations he made provided the theoretical foundation for the development of radar.[7] He was among the first physicists to use high-voltage accelerators to define the structure of the atom. In 1933 he confirmed the existence of the neutron and was also able to measure the binding forces in atomic nuclei.[8]

Tuve proposed that an electronically activated proximity fuze would make anti-aircraft fire far more effective, and led the team of scientists that developed the device, which proved crucial in the allies' victory in World War II. He led in the development of the proximity fuze first at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and then later at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and also made contributions to experimental seismology, radio astronomy, and optical astronomy.[9][10]

In 1942, Merle Tuve was the founding director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Merle Tuve was the Director of Terrestrial Magnetism Research at the Carnegie Institution for Science (1946–66). He served on the first U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, on the National Research Council Committee on Growth, and on the U.S. Committee for the International Geophysical Year. He was the first chairman of the Geophysical Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences.[11]

Personal life

Merle Tuve had two brothers: George Lewis Tuve, who was a professor of mechanical engineering and Richard Larsen Tuve, who was an inventor and chemist. Their sister, Rosemond Tuve was an author and professor of Renaissance Literature at Connecticut College. Merle Tuve was married in 1927 to Winifred Gray Whitman. Merle and Winifred had two children, Trygve and Lucy. Both earned Ph.D. degrees and pursued scientific careers.


Tuve was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1943.[12] For his service to the nation during World War II, Tuve received the Presidential Medal for Merit from President Harry S. Truman and was named an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1948. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[13] Mount Tuve in Ellsworth Land in Antarctica was named in honor of Merle Anthony Tuve. The Library of Congress holds his papers in more than 400 archival boxes.[14]


Selected works


  1. ^ Holmes, Jamie (2020). 12 Seconds of Silence: How a Team of Inventors, Tinkerers, and Spies Took Down a Nazi Superweapon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-328-46012-7.
  2. ^ Baxter, James Phinney (1968). Scientists Against Time. M.I.T. Press. p. 230.
  3. ^ Norwegian American Scientist (National Academy of Sciences)
  4. ^ Sirvaitis, Karen (1 September 2001). South Dakota. Lerner Publications. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8225-4070-0.
  5. ^ "Merle Anthony Tuve". Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  6. ^ Breit, G.; Tuve, M. A. (1926-09-01). "A Test of the Existence of the Conducting Layer". Physical Review. American Physical Society (APS). 28 (3): 554–575. Bibcode:1926PhRv...28..554B. doi:10.1103/physrev.28.554. ISSN 0031-899X.
  7. ^ "The Beginnings of Radio Astronomy". The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
  8. ^ "Milestones". Time. May 31, 1982. Archived from the original on 15 October 2010. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  9. ^ "Merle Tuve". NNDB. Soylent Communications. 2019. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  10. ^ Cornell, Thomas D. (1988). "Merle Antony Tuve: Pioneer Nuclear Physicist". Physics Today. AIP Publishing. 41 (1): 57–64. Bibcode:1988PhT....41a..57C. doi:10.1063/1.881153. ISSN 0031-9228.
  11. ^ Biographical Memoirs V.70 (1996) (National Academy of Sciences)
  12. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  13. ^ "Merle Antony Tuve". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  14. ^ Merle Antony Tuve, Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress (The Library of Congress)

Further reading