During the thirty years that have elapsed since the centennial year, but two physicists have been called to the presidency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1880 George F. Barker presided over the Boston meeting, and in 1889 Thomas C. Mendenhall was the presiding officer at the Toronto meeting. A year ago, in New York, when the selection of an officer to preside at the Chicago meeting next week was considered, the claims of the physicists were recognized, and Edward L. Nichols was chosen. Edward Leamington Nichols is the son of the well-known landscape artist, Edward Willard Nichols, and was born in Leamington, England, on September 14, 1854, while his parents were on a visit to the British Isles. He was educated at Cornell, where in 1875 he took the degree of B.S., and then, choosing physics as his specialty, studied in Germany at Leipsic, Berlin, and Gttingen, receiving the degree of doctor of philosophy at the latter university in 1879. On his return to the United States he had for a year a fellowship in the Johns Hopkins University, where he followed his chosen studies under Rowland, and then he served for a year as an assistant to Thomas A. Edison in his laboratory at Menlo Park, N. J. In the autumn of 1881 he began his professorial career by accepting a call to the chair of physics and chemistry in Central University in Kentucky, and two years later accepted the professorship of physics and astronomy in the University of Kansas. For four years he remained in that chair, and then returned to his alma mater in Ithaca, where he has since continued as professor of physics with a large corps of assistants under him. Prof. Nichols has often addressed the meetings of the American Association, and he also deserves recognition for his contributions on science to popular magazines, and for his many valuable memoirs of contemporary scientists, among which particularly worthy of mention are those on Tyndall, Helmholtz, Rogers, and Bunsen. Of similar nature was his fascinating address on Franklin's researches in electricity, which he delivered at the bicentennial celebration of the birth of Franklin, held in Philadelphia in 1906 under the auspices of the American Philosophical Society. He then called attention to the fact that Franklin was "the author of the one theory of electricity which of all the views on this subject comes nearest to our twentieth century concept." The honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by the University of Pennsylvania in 1906, when he was characterized as "especially noted for his investigations on radiation and upon matter at low temperature. His researches have shed light upon the strange property of certain substances to become self-luminous by day or by night." In the United States there are three societies to which one is chosen in consideration of high attainments in science, and to each of these Prof. Nichols has been elected. They are the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, a past president of the Kansas Academy of Sciences, and the president for the year 1906-7 of the American Physical Society, of which he was one of the founders. The Sigma Xi, an honorary scientific society, also claims him as one of its founders, and h has been its president since 1904. Prof. Nichols joined the American Association at its Saratoga meeting in 1879. Two years later he was advanced to the grade of fellow. His affiliations have been with the sections on physics and chemistry, chiefly however with the former, of which he was elected secretary in 1889, and vice-president in 1903. At the New York meeting in 1906 he was chosen president of the entire association. This recognition properly confirms his high rank among men of science in the United States, and establishes him as the foremost of contemporary workers in physics.
This article was originally published with the title "Edward Leamington Nichols" in Scientific American 97, 26, 471 (December 1907)