Albert A. Michelson (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Michelson was the first American to win a Nobel Prize for Physics, which he received for determining the length of the standard meter in terms of wavelengths of light. His significant contributions to physics and optics include measurement of velocity of light, of the ether drift, of the rigidity of earth, and of the diameter of stars, as well as development of the interferometer.
Albert Abraham Michelson was born December 19, 1852, at Strelno (modern Strzelno), which was Polish in population and tradition but was located in German territory at that time. His mother, Rosalie Przlubska, was the daughter of a businessman, and the effect of her early teachings made Albert resist the lure of easy money all of his life. At the time of Albert’s birth, his father, Samuel Michelson, was the proprietor of a dry-goods shop. Political upheavals in Europe in 1848 accelerated anti-Semitism there, and late in 1855, the Michelsons decided to emigrate to California. They traveled by steamer to Panama; made the laborious trip across the Isthmus by muleback, canoe, and train; and boarded another boat to San Francisco, where Samuel’s sister and brother-in-law, Belle and Oscar Meyer, were living. The Michelsons settled in Murphys, a mining town in the heart of the gold country, where Samuel opened a store. Young Albert took violin lessons from a local prospector who was a fine musician. Albert’s parents...
(The entire section is 2883 words.)
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