William Duane (physicist)

William Duane (February 17, 1872 – March 7, 1935) was an American physicist. A coworker of Marie Curie, he developed a method for generating quantities of radon in the laboratory.

William Duane
Born(1872-02-17)February 17, 1872
DiedMarch 7, 1935(1935-03-07) (aged 63)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materBerlin University
Known forDuane-Hunt law
Duane's hypothesis
AwardsComstock Prize in Physics (1923)
Scientific career
InstitutionsHarvard University
Doctoral advisorWalther Nernst
InfluencesMadame Curie
InfluencedAlfred Landé


Display about Duane at the University of Colorado Boulder


  • 1888-1892 University of Pennsylvania
  • 1892-1895 Harvard University
  • 1895 Universities of Göttingen (as a Tyndall Fellow)
  • 1895-1897 Berlin

doctor father: Max Planck

Academic careerEdit

  • 1898-1907 professor at the University of Colorado Boulder
  • 1908-1913 at the laboratory of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris
  • 1913-1917 assistant professor of physics at Harvard University
  • 1917-1934 professor of biophysics at Harvard University

Research activitiesEdit

  • Radioactivity
  • X-ray spectroscopy, Duane-Hunt law, relating the minimum wavelength of X-rays to the threshold voltage of the cathode rays that excite them; and Duane's hypothesis of quantized translative momentum transfer.


Starting in 1925, Duane began suffering a continual decline in health brought on by diabetes. This culminated in his death on 7 March 1935 due to his second paralytic stroke. He was interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1]

Honours and awardsEdit

The physics department building in the University of Colorado Boulder is named after him. In 1923 Duane was awarded the Comstock Prize in Physics from the National Academy of Sciences[2] for his work on "relations of fundamental significance...in their bearings upon modern theories of the structure of matter and on the mechanism of radiation."[3]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • Duane, William (1905). "Sur l'ionisation de l'air en présence de l'émanation du radium". Journal de Physique Théorique et Appliquée. 4 (1): 605–619. doi:10.1051/jphystap:019050040060500. ISSN 0368-3893.
  • Duane, William (1905). "Sur l'ionization produite entre les plateaux paralleles par l'émanation du radium". Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences. 140: 786–788.


  1. ^ "William Duane". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2 July 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ del Regato, Juan A. (1985). "Chapter VI: William Duane". Radiological Physicists. American Institute of Physics. pp. 65–75. ISBN 978-0-88318-469-1.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit