Reference Entry

Brattain, Walter H.

David Y. Cooper

in American National Biography Online


Published online July 2001 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1301949

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Brattain, Walter H. (10 February 1902–13 October 1987), physicist, was born Walter Houser Brattain in Amoy, China, the eldest of five children of Ross R. Brattain, a teacher in a private school for Chinese boys, and Ottilie Houser Brattain. Early in Brattain's childhood the Brattain family returned from China and settled in Tonasket, Washington, a small town where the senior Brattain had grown up. On his return to the United States Ross Brattain switched from teaching to homesteading, cattle ranching, and flour milling. After completing his secondary education in the schools in Tonasket, Walter enrolled at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where he majored in mathematics and physics and received a B.S. degree in 1924. He then entered the University of Oregon and in 1926 was awarded a master's degree in physics. In 1929 he transferred to the University of Minnesota, receiving a Ph.D. in physics. While studying for his Ph.D. Brattain worked at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.; there, with Vincent E. Heaton, he designed a temperature-controlled oscillator and also worked on improving accuracy in measurements of time and vibratory frequency. Although Brattain enjoyed outdoor life and ranching, he attributed his becoming a physicist to his hatred of farming. He once stated, “following the horse and a harrow in the dust is what made a physicist of me.”...

Reference Entry.  1369 words. 

Subjects: Physics

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