Biography and History

Walker Bleakney was a renowned physicist known for his contributions to the fields of atomic physics, molecular physics, and fluid dynamics; his research on the ionization of gases; and his study of blast waves. Born in Elderton, Pa., Bleakney earned his BS degree at Whitman College in 1924 and his PHD at the University of Minnesota in 1930. After working for two years at Princeton as a National Research Fellow, he joined the faculty as an instructor in 1932. Promoted to assistant professor in 1935, he became associate professor in 1938 and professor in 1944. Bleakney was named Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics in 1953 and Class of 1909 Professor 10 years later. From 1960 to 1967, he chaired the Department of Physics.

Author of many technical reports, Bleakney was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1959 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963. During and immediately after World War II, he served with the National Defense Research Committee, the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the National Research Council, and as a consultant to the Army, the Navy, and the Atomic Energy Commission. He was the head of the Princeton Ballistic Project. His research covered various fields of physics, including shock waves, atomic scattering, and nuclear phenomena. He died in 1992.

Source: From the finding aid for C0604


  • Physicists -- New Jersey -- Princeton..
  • Walker Bleakney Papers. 1920s-1961 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0604

    Walker Bleakney was a renowned physicist who served as a Princeton professor of physics (1932-1969) and chairman of the physics department (1960-1967). This collection consists of Bleakney’s papers, including published and unpublished reports, drafts of articles, graphic data and photographs of experiments, and other material concerning Bleakney's defense-related research on shock waves at the Princeton Gas Dynamics Laboratory, as well as lecture notes and correspondence.

  • Lincoln Gilmore Smith Collection. 1950-1966 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1205

    Consists of miscellaneous material of Lincoln Gilmore Smith, a physicist and professor of physics at Princeton University, relating to his construction and use of mass spectrometers.