The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.


David M. Dennison
Regents' Proceedings 520

David Mathias Dennison, the eminent theoretical physicist, has concluded his tenure on the active faculty at the statutory age of seventy.

Professor Dennison was born in Oberlin, Ohio, earned his baccalaureate from Swarthmore College, and did his graduate work at The University of Michigan-these data reflecting the career of his father, a classical scholar who taught at the institutions named. Being still only twenty-four when he earned his doctorate, he studied for three years abroad, working for an extended period with the great Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. Returning to the University as an instructor in physics, he rose through the ranks to a professorship in 1935. For two five-year terms beginning in 1955, he served also as department chairman.

As is characteristic of creative physicists, he attained distinction early. His major contribution to theoretical physics was the determination of molecular structures from the infrared spectra of molecules, a technique of which he became and has remained an internationally acknowledged master. He was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1953 and was made chairman of its Physics Section in 1966. He was a valued consultant to the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II, and to the National Science Foundation and the National Bureau of Standards in subsequent years. Swarthmore conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1950. The University appointed him Henry Russel Lecturer in 1952, bestowed the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award on him in 1963, and named him Harrison M. Randall University Professor of Physics in 1966.

The Regents are mindful of the honor, which he has brought to this institution through his association with it. They take cognizance too of his yeoman service to his Department and his College, and his expert counsel to the University on scientific affairs. Extending to him a special need of grateful esteem as they appoint him Professor Emeritus of Physics, they invite him to partake of all privileges perquisite to that rank, and to hearten and inspire his colleagues by his continued personal association with them.