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Memoir

Otto Laporte
Regents' Proceedings 920

The death of the distinguished physicist Otto LaPorte on March 29, 1971 has deeply saddened his professional colleagues and his personal friends throughout the University and the town. He was sixty-eight years of age and had been a member of the University faculty for nearly forty-five years.

A native of Mainz, Germany, Professor Laporte earned his doctorate from the University of Munich in 1924. Visiting Japan and the United States during the next two years, he accepted an appointment as Instructor in Physics at the University in 1926, and rose through the several ranks to a professorship in 1945. During the Second World War, he held a concurrent appointment in aeronautical engineering.

In Professor Laport's versatile career, three special accomplishments can be singled out. His early work in atomic spectroscopy is memorialized in the rule, which bears his name. The work on fluid mechanics which he began in the nineteen forties issued in research on shock waves and the eventual discovery that these could be used to produce the high temperatures needful to plasma physics; he was hence in the forefront of knowledge and technique in a second major field. Finally, having held a number of visiting appointments in Japanese universities before Pearl Harbor, he had a significant role in fashioning the Japanese-American agreement on the uses of atomic energy, signed in the nineteen fifties.

Professor Laport's strong and nimble mind was catholic in scope, catalyzing inquiry in many other fields of theoretical physics. He was a committee chairman of the American Physical Society, an influential lecturer in American and German universities, and a counselor to NASA, the National Bureau of Standards, the Pentagon, and the Department of State. He remained, also, an inspiring graduate teacher, a responsible citizen of his Department and College, and a moving spirit within the total intellectual community of the University.

His friends and fellows mourn the loss of his learning and intelligence, of his ready and willing service, and of his engaging personality. The Regents of the University now too mourn his death, pay grateful tribute to his memory, and tender their profound sympathy to Mrs. Laporte and her daughters.