L. H. Thomas Lectures
The L. H. Thomas lectures are among the most prestigious general audience
presentations in the Triangle. Since 1980, over twenty
different Nobel prize winners have spoken in the series. The L. H. Thomas
lectures are cosponsored by the Department of Physics of North Carolina State
University, the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Foundation, and the SAS Institute.
A Memoir, compiled by David Jackson, can be
downloaded here.[PDF] More biographies and memoirs
of National Academy of Science members can be found at
the National Academies site
Llewellyn Hilleth Thomas
Llewellyn Hilleth Thomas came to the Department of Physics at North Carolina
State University in 1968 as a University Professor where he continued his
distinguished career in physics and mathematics. His lectures, participation
in seminars, and advice on a wide range of research problems have been invaluable
to students and faculty.
Professor Thomas was born in London on October 21, 1903. He was taught at
home until age seven and then attended a private school. At the age of 11
he attended the Merchant Taylor's school in London. In 1921 he obtained a
scholarship to study pure and applied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.
He won a senior scholarship in 1923 and an Isaac Newton Studentship in 1924,
receiving a first class honors degree in mathematics with distinction in
advanced subjects. In 1925, during his second year of graduate study, he
was awarded the Smith prize for an essay on adiabatic invariants which formed
the basis of his first publication.
The period 1925-26 was spent at Bohr's institute in Copenhagen where, in
addition to continuing work on the passage of electrified particles through
matter, he performed calculations on the relativistic motion of an electron
with spin angular momentum and on self-consistent fields for atoms. Seven
papers on these topics were published as part of his doctoral studies. His
second article, entitled "Motion of the Spinning Electron," describes an
effect which bears his name--The Thomas Precession of an electron. His third
paper describes a statistical model for an atom which was concurrently being
developed by Fermi. Today this model of the atom is known as the Thomas-Fermi
model. Another paper in this series is acknowledged by contemporary atomic
collision scientists as the pioneering theoretical work on the classical
model of charge transfer for protons on atomic hydrogen. He received his
Ph.D. in 1927 and M.A. in 1928 from Cambridge University.
L. H. Thomas joined the Department of Physics at Ohio State University as
an Assistant Professor in 1929. He was promoted to Associate Professor in
1930 and to Professor in 1936. He wrote two papers which were published in
1938 describing the Thomas Cyclotron--a heavy particle, high energy accelerator
now in use at several important nuclear physics installations. During World
War II he served as a physicist and ballistician at the Ballistic Research
Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland where he was an author
of numerous technical reports. Following the war in 1946 he accepted a position
as a member of the senior staff at the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory
established by IBM at Columbia University. He was appointed an Honorary Professor
at Columbia in 1950 and a Fellow of IBM in 1963. While with IBM, he authored
over 40 papers on numerical methods and applications in atomic physics, plasma
physics, general relativity, and applied mathematics.
In 1963 he received the D.Sc. degree from Cambridge University and the Davisson-Germer
prize in 1982 from the American Physical Society "for his early pioneering
contributions to the theory of the spin-orbit interaction in atoms and the
statistical model of atoms."
Professor Thomas was a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member
of the National Academy of Science. He was also a member of Sigma Xi, the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, the British Association
for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Cambridge
Llewellyn H. Thomas died in Raleigh, NC, on April 20, 1992.