Biography and History

William Francis Magie graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1879 as valedictorian of his class. (His father, William Jay Magie, was valedictorian of the Princeton Class 1852.) He was a founder of the American Physical Society and was its president from 1910 to 1912. He taught physics at Princeton University for almost half a century, and was one of the group of alumni who nurtured Princeton's development from a college to a university. At the end of his senior year, on Commencement Day, one of his professors, Cyrus Fog Brackett, offered him the job to become his assistant. In 1884 Magie took a leave of absence and went to Germany, where he studied at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin under Hermann von Helmholtz and subsequently earned his Ph.D. A decade later he collaborated with two physicians in publishing the first paper in the U.S. on the possible use of X-rays in surgery. He was also the author of a highly regarded textbook on the rise and content of physical theories, Principles of Physics (1911). His greatest work, however, was in teaching and administration. After Brackett retired in 1908, Magie succeeded him as chairman of the physics department and, later, as Joseph Henry Professor of Physics. From 1912 to 1925 he served as dean of the faculty, and he continued to serve as chairman of the physics department until his retirement in 1929, when, at Commencement Day, he was awarded an honorary Sc.D.

Source: From the finding aid for C1122

  • Lecture Notes Collection. 1772-1990 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC052

    This collection contains over 600 sets of student notes taken from lectures given by members of Princeton's faculty. They represent the broad range of courses taught at Princeton University (known as the College of New Jersey prior to 1896) and include the works of numerous famous faculty and students.

  • Office of Dean of the Faculty Records. 1781-2015 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC118

    Princeton University's dean of the faculty is the senior administrator responsible for the quality and well-being of the faculty and professional staffs of the university. In the past, the office has been responsible for matters ranging from student discipline to undergraduate academic life and the curriculum. This record group consists of the files of the faculty, the dean, the office, and its staff. In addition to the office's subject files, the collection includes the records of faculty meetings, faculty and University committees, and the personnel files of faculty, senior staff, and trustees.

  • William Francis Magie Papers. 1875-1920 (bulk), 1875-1945 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1122

    Consists of miscellaneous academic records and manuscripts of William Francis Magie, distinguished Princeton physics professor and dean.