Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Palmer, Albert D.

Albert DeForest Palmer (1869-1940), professor of physics, was born in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, on July 21, 1869. He graduated from Middlebury High School in Vermont and received a bachelor of philosophy degree from Brown in 1891. He did two years of graduate work at Johns Hopkins University before returning to Brown to receive his Ph.D. in 1895. He was appointed instructor in physics in 1893 and was promoted to associate professor in 1896. An appreciation of Palmer’s work at Brown appeared in the memorial minute of the faculty in 1940:

“During the greater part of his active career Professor Palmer’s position in the university was somewhat overshadowed by the fame of his senior colleague, Professor Carl Barus. Yet it must not be forgotten that Professor Palmer was a research physicist of national reputation. In spite of the rather meager equipment at his disposal he did a considerable amount of experimental investigation of very high order. His work was not spectacular and he made no effort to achieve the headlines. He was slow and painstaking and was never satisfied until he could attain the ultimate in preciseness. Indeed precision measurement was his forte ... The breadth of his work is indicated by the fact that his research covered such diverse fields as the dielectric constant of water, the measurement of high pressures, the wave length of spectral lines, electrical resistance measurement and the properties of polarized light.”
His book, The Theory of Measurement, published in 1912, became a standard text in precision measurement. On his retirement in 1934 he moved to California and continued experimentation in a laboratory he built. He died in Pasadena on January 13, 1940.