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Physics


S. Winston Cram

and Physics at Emporia State University

A number of physics graduates of the 1940s and 50s typify what have become known figuratively and affectionately as "Cram's boys." They extol the professional and personal influence of S. Winston Cram, who joined the physics faculty in 1937, chaired the Division of Physical Sciences from 1945 to 1969, and for whom the physical sciences wing of the science hall is named. Numerous graduates in the late 1930s and early 1940s went directly to graduate school, obtained advanced degrees, and then became employed at one of the Manhattan Project sites (particularly Los Alamos and Oak Ridge) or at critical industrial sites. (The Manhattan Project was the name given to the atomic-bomb project.) Three of "Cram's boys"--Robert McFarland, BA 1940; Francis McGowan, BA 1942; and L. Worth Seagondollar, BA 1941--have provided information regarding their student years at KSTC, and the early days of their careers as Manhattan Project scientists working in the context of World War II. Seagondollar, for example, was at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he "worked on critical mass experiments and was nine miles away from the first man-made nuclear explosion."

Dr. Cram was succeeded as the chair of Physical Sciences by Dr. Charles Creager (1924 - 2004), who is remembered on a separate page.

 

S. Winston Cram (1907-1978)

In the Fall of 1937 a new faculty member arrived in physics at Kansas State Teachers College. The event marked a significant chapter in the history of the physical sciences at this institution. During the following 35-years Dr. S. Winston Cram was to have a profound influence on the lives of many aspiring physicists and physical science teachers.

S. Winston Cram, a native Minnesotan, graduated cum laude with a B.A. in physics (1929) from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Following the attainment of the Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1934), was a period of postdoctoral work as a Kosciuszno Foundation Fellow at the University of Warsaw in Poland.

His early career at KSTC/ESU was interrupted during the war years (1944-45) for a position as supervisor of electronics research at Sylvania in Flushing, New York. But prior to that he had mentored a number of aspiring physicists through their baccalaureate degrees. An inordinate number of KSTC graduates went directly to graduate school, obtained advanced degrees, and then became employed at one of the Manhattan Project sites (particularly Los Alamos and Oak Ridge) or at critical industrial sites.

The Division of Physical Sciences--first chemistry and physics but later earth science--was formed in 1945. Dr. Cram served as its Chair from that time until 1969. He continued on the faculty of physics through 1972.

Dr. Robert McFarland (BA, 1940; PhD, 1947, University of Wisconsin-Madison), an early student of Winston Cram and later a distinguished physicist and academic administrator, characterizes Cram's contributions as follows:

Winston's outstanding abilities lay in recruiting, motivating, and teaching students. There have been few his equal. Although he was primarily a researcher when he arrived in Emporia, he recognized the limitations that KSTC presented to this aspect of physics and adapted his talents to fill the needs of the institution.

National recognition was accorded to Dr. Cram in 1968 when he was awarded a Distinguished Service Citation by the American Association of Physics Teachers. The tribute cited his efforts for exceptional involvement with science education before that became fashionable:

S. Winston Cram of Kansas State Teachers College is a man of too many accomplishments in physics education to recount in a brief citation. He has served on national committees concerned with its improvement for the National Science Teachers Association, the National Educational Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and for the past half dozen years has been Physics Regional Counselor for Kansas. He has directed a number of [NSF-funded] institutes for high school teachers, and worked in India during the summers of 1965 and 1966 as a member of the USAID Team on Science Education. He has been an active and effective member of numerous American Association of Physics Teachers committees, and has since 1964 represented the Regional Sections on the Executive Board. One of his notable and most admirable achievements is his continued ability to recruit and train high school physics teachers in substantial numbers. At present, when the shortage of qualified teachers is such a serious problem for physics in the United States, this is an especially noteworthy accomplishment.

Four KSTC (ESU) graduates have achieved the distinction of Fellow of the American Physical Society based on their professional accomplishments. They typify Cram's influence. In addition to McFarland, previously cited, is the illustrative testimonial of Dr. Frances McGowan (AB, 1942; PhM, 1944, University of Wisconsin-Madison; PhD, 1951, University of Tennessee; and life-long researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory):

Dr. Cram was an extraordinarily gifted teacher and was widely admired and loved for his abilities in teaching physics. His generosity with time to his students was legendary. He genuinely cared about students. He simply thought teaching was an important thing to do. His purpose was to illustrate by example how to think and reason about physics and he was brilliantly successful and adept at finding simple methods to treat problems. His lasting monument is that he was a great teacher of teachers.

Winston and wife Florence have three sons: Stuart, Scott, and Alan. All have followed the legacy of their father with careers in the physical sciences with a variety of distinctions.


 

Dr. Robert H. McFarland

A 1940 BSE graduate of KSTC (now ESU), McFarland earned the PhM (1943) and PhD (1947) degrees in physics from the University of Wisconsin. But as was the case with many others, his advanced degree work was suspended between 1944 and 1946 to work at Sylvania Corporation in Flushing, NY, where he was reunited with his undergraduate mentor, Dr. S. Winston Cram.

McFarland's career included major episodes with academe and a national research laboratory. Following the completion of the PhD, he was a faculty member at Kansas State University from 1947-60. An appointment as a research physicist at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (Berkeley, California, 1960-69) bridged to another series of academic appointments at the University of Missouri, Rolla. At UM-Rolla he was dean of the Graduate School (1969-79) and director of Institutional Analysis/Planning (1979-82). He has been a professor emeritus at UM-R since 1985. McFarland's distinguished career led to his selection as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Robert and Twilah McFarland continue to live in retirement at Rolla, MO.


 

Dr. Francis McGowan

Francis McGowan received an AB degree in 1942 from KSTC (Emporia State), a PhM degree in 1944 from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in 1951 from the University of Tennessee.

During 1944-45 McGowan worked as a research engineer with the Sylvania Electric Products Research Laboratory. His assignment was with the radio proximity fuse project, a critical war project.

Beginning in 1946 he worked in the physics division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) until his "retirement" in 1990 as the senior physicist. McGowan's work with the senior research staff at ORNL included nuclear structure physics research, and from 1962-1976 he was the director of the Charged-Particle Cross Section Data Center.

McGowan was also selected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He was a member of the APS Subcommittee on Nuclear Data for Materials Analysis, Safeguards, and Environmental Matters from 1972-1975. He continues to serve as associate editor of Atomic Data and Nuclear Data Tables, a responsibility which began in 1965. McGowan can attribute to his credit over 150 patents and/or publications.

McGowan resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


 

Dr. L. Worth Seagondollar

Lewis Worth Seagondollar earned an AB degree from KSTC in 1941, and a PhM (1943) and PhD (1948) in physics from the University of Wisconsin.

Between 1944 and 1946 Seagondollar worked with the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory complex. At Los Alamos he "worked on critical mass experiments and was nine miles from the first man-made nuclear explosion." Seagondollar's career included academic appointments at the University of Kansas (1947-65) and North Carolina State University (1965-91) where he was chair of physics from 1965-75.

Selected also as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, he was an active member of numerous professional organizations and served for six years as the national president of Sigma Pi Sigma (1962-68), a national physics honor society. Now a professor emeritus at NC State, he continues also as a Radiation Safety Officer with the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory in North Carolina.

The Seagondollars reside in Raleigh, North Carolina.


The contents of this page were provided by DeWayne Backhus.

Page maintained by Jorge Ballester, jballest@emporia.edu.
Last modified February 15, 2007.