Robert Hofstadter
Robert Hofstadter (1961, Nobel Foundation photo)
Born(1915-02-05)February 5, 1915
New York City
DiedNovember 17, 1990(1990-11-17) (aged 75)
Alma materCity College of New York (BS)
Princeton University (MS, PhD)
Occupation(s)Nuclear Physicist, Astrophysicist, University Professor
Known forElectron scattering
Atomic nuclei
Sodium iodide scintillator
SpouseNancy (Givan) Hofstadter (1920–2007) (3 children including Douglas Hofstadter)
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics (1961)
National Medal of Science (1986)
Dirac Medal (UNSW) (1987)
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
University of Pennsylvania
Doctoral studentsCarol Jo Crannell

Robert Hofstadter (February 5, 1915 – November 17, 1990)[1] was an American physicist. He was the joint winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics (together with Rudolf Mössbauer) "for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his consequent discoveries concerning the structure of nucleons".[2][3]


Hofstadter was born into a Jewish family[4][5] in New York City on February 5, 1915, to Polish immigrants, Louis Hofstadter, a salesman, and Henrietta, née Koenigsberg.[6] He attended elementary and high schools in New York City and entered City College of New York, graduating with a B.S. degree magna cum laude in 1935 at the age of 20, and was awarded the Kenyon Prize in Mathematics and Physics. He also received a Charles A. Coffin Foundation Fellowship from the General Electric Company, which enabled him to attend graduate school at Princeton University, where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the age of 23.[7] His doctoral dissertation was titled "Infra-red absorption by light and heavy formic and acetic acids."[8] He did his post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania and was an assistant professor at Princeton before joining Stanford University. Hofstadter taught at Stanford from 1950 to 1985.[citation needed]

In 1942 he married Nancy Givan (1920–2007), a native of Baltimore.[9] They had three children: Laura, Molly (who was disabled and not able to communicate),[10] and Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas Hofstadter.[11]


Thallium-activated sodium iodide gamma ray detector

In 1948 Hofstadter filed a patent on this for the detection of ionizing radiation by this crystal.[12][13] These Thallium-activated sodium iodide detectors are widely used for gamma ray detection to this day.

Coining of the fermi (unit) and 1961 Nobel Lecture

Robert Hofstadter coined the term fermi, symbol fm,[14] in honor of the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954), one of the founders of nuclear physics, in Hofstadter's 1956 paper published in the Reviews of Modern Physics journal, "Electron Scattering and Nuclear Structure".[15] The term is widely used by nuclear and particle physicists. When Hofstadter was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics, it subsequently appears in the text of his 1961 Nobel Lecture, "The electron-scattering method and its application to the structure of nuclei and nucleons" (December 11, 1961).[3]

Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and EGRET Telescope

In his last few years, Hofstadter became interested in astrophysics and applied his knowledge of scintillators to the design of the EGRET gamma-ray telescope of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory named for fellow Nobel Laureate in Physics (1927), Arthur Holly Compton. Stanford University's Department of Physics credits Hofstadter with being "one of the principal scientists who developed the Compton Observatory."[16]

Awards and honors

See also


  1. ^ Flint, Peter B., "Obituary: Dr. Robert Hofstadter Dies at 75; Won Nobel Prize in Physics in '61", The New York Times, November 19, 1990.
  2. ^ a b R. W. McAllister & Robert Hofstadter, "Elastic Scattering of 188 MeV Electrons from Proton and the Alpha Particle," Physical Review, V102, p. 851 (1956).
  3. ^ a b c Robert Hofstadter on Edit this at Wikidata including his Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1961 The Electron-Scattering Method and Its Application to the Structure of Nuclei and Nucleons
  4. ^ "Dr. Robert Hofstadter, U.S. Jewish Scientist, Wins 1961 Nobel Prize". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. November 3, 1961. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  5. ^ "Robert Hofstadter biography". NNDB. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  6. ^ "Guide to the Robert Hofstadter Papers". Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  7. ^ Robert Hofstadter biography. 2001. doi:10.17226/10169. ISBN 978-0-309-07572-5. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  8. ^ Hofstadter, Robert (1938). Infra-red absorption by light and heavy formic and acetic acids. Princeton.
  9. ^ Obituary to Nancy Givan from Stanford University, 2007.
  10. ^ Douglas Hofstadter's autobiography
  11. ^ National Academy of Sciences biography
  12. ^ US patent 2585551, Robert Hofstadter, "Means for detecting ionizing radiations" 
  13. ^ "Robert Hofstadter" Biographical Memoirs National Academy of Sciences
  14. ^ "American National Standard for Metric Practice". IEEE Standards Library. IEEE/ASTM SI 10-2010 (Revision of IEEE/ASTM SI 10-2002). IEEE: 78. April 11, 2011. doi:10.1109/IEEESTD.2011.5750142. ISBN 978-0-7381-6533-2. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  15. ^ Hofstadter, Robert, department of physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, "Electron Scattering and Nuclear Structure", Rev. Mod. Phys. 28, 214–254 (1956) © 1956 The American Physical Society
  16. ^ "The Hofstadter Memorial Lectures". Stanford University. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  17. ^ Robert Hofstadter "The Electron Scattering Method & its Application to the Structure of Nuclei and Nucleons", Nobel Lectures, Physics 1942–1962, pp. 560–581, Elsevier Pub. Co., Amsterdam-London-New York (Dec 1961).
  18. ^ "Robert Hofstadter". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  19. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  20. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved May 10, 2022.

Further reading

Publication list

Technical reports: