William J. Fickinger

Emeritus Professor of Physics



I retired at the end of 1999 after 32 years on the faculty of Case Western Reserve. I joined the department of physics in the year when Case and Western Reserve were federated. I had done my doctorate at Yale, working on a hydrogen bubble chamber experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory. My dissertation was on proton-proton collisions at 2 GeV and the production and properties of the  baryon. My major responsibility was data analysis and the computer programs for the reconstruction and identification of bubble chamber events.

I worked on similar experiments at Brookhaven, the University of Kentucky, the Center for Nuclear Studies at Saclay in Paris, and at Vanderbilt University before joining my long-time collaborator, Keith Robinson, at CWRU. For about twenty years we were supported by the National Science Foundation, completing a variety of bubble chamber and counter experiments at Brookhaven and Argonne labs. These experiments contributed to the data base of particle properties which led eventually to the quark model for mesons and baryons.

In 1994 I was appointed Director of Undergraduate Studies and enjoyed helping to reorganize the large introductory courses for engineers and pre-med students, as well as the establishment of several new physics-related majors and the senior honors program.

Since retirement, my major activity has been the writing of a history of the physics research at CWRU from its very beginnings in 1830 until about 1990. This has been a great learning experience and provides a perfect project for a emeritus professor. I am also working on a related project: the identification, cataloging, restoration, preservation and display of the department’s collection of scientific instruments. Most of this equipment was purchased at the beginning of the 20th century by chairman Dayton C. Miller. It was used in his acoustics research and as teaching aids in the classical physics courses. The Case Collection of Physics Instruments (CCPI) is now part of the world-wide network of university collections. A related project is the creation of a website with photos and details on the major pieces in the collection.

Here is my personal website.