Alfred Lee Loomis – Scientist of the Day

Alfred Lee Loomis - Scientist of the Day

Alfred Lee Loomis was the last true science buff who never sought to get money for his hobby. He was born into a wealthy New York family in 1887 and, although he graduated from Yale University, the humanitarian bias of which was known to everyone, became interested in the natural sciences and adored (and designed himself) a variety of mechanical trifles. Loomis especially admired ballistics. Once in the army when the United States entered World War I, he developed new methods for measuring the speed of artillery shells. Leading physicists of the country came to Aberdeen training ground to advise the military, and Loomis made acquaintance with some of them. He especially made friends with Robert Williams Wood.

The fortune of Loomis, a successful banker and lawyer, grew day by day and finally, an amateur scientist decided to organize a private laboratory in his mansion on Long Island. At that time, Loomis was visiting his aunts in East Hampton.

As a result, a device was manufactured in Schenectady, which was first installed in the huge garage of Loomis in Tuxedo Park, New York, where we killed mice and fish with ultrasound and tried to understand what was happening: did the tissue destroy waves, act on the nervous system or the cause of death lies in something else.

Then Mr. Loomis bought Spencer Trask’s house – a huge stone mansion with a tower like a rural house in England, towering on a hilltop in Tuxedo Park. He turned the mansion into a first-class laboratory with rooms for guests or invited scientists, with a full-fledged mechanical workshop and a dozen, or even more, large and small rooms for experiments.

The work of Lumis ultrasound formed the basis of a new scientific direction. Loomis set up other experiments (independently or with the participation of Wood and other scientific guests), affecting various fields of physics, but he was primarily interested in the construction of precision instruments. For many years, he somehow managed to do everything – to make deals on Wall Street and do science in his laboratory, but in the end, he was tired of the world of finance. He (anonymously) supported the American Physical Society and distressed physicists, and when World War II loomed on the horizon, he began to devote more and more time to military projects, in particular, to create a radar. Lumis participated both as an engineer and as a manager in the work of the Radar Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: he sat on some important committees and headed some. Thanks to a good relationship with his cousin, the Secretary of War Henry Stimson, the doors to the offices of the most senior politicians and tycoons easily opened before him. His interest in science remained in old age – in those years he became interested in the study of hydra, a tiny freshwater creature. Along the way, Mr. Loomis continued to invent various trifles like a special machine delivering food to guests at a long table. Showered with honors, Alfred Loomis passed away in 1975.

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Tags: finance, science, technology