Clifford Glenwood Shull

Clifford Glenwood Shull, a 1937 alum of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, was a 1994 Nobel Prize winner in Physics. Shull’s pioneering work with Ernie Wollan in neutron scattering while a physicist at Oak Ridge led to his Nobel Prize.

 Shull was born on September 23, 1915 in the Glenwood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His first exposure to physics was at Schenley High School where he was in Paul Dysart’s class. Dysart held a PhD in the field and Shull was impressed by his lectures and laboratory demonstrations.

 In the fall of 1933, Shull began his undergraduate studies at Carnegie Tech. In his Nobel autobiography, he mentions Harry Hower teaching his freshman physics class and cementing his interest in physics as a course of study. Shull also makes a special mention of Emerson Pugh, a professor of physics at CIT, whose guidance during his final two years led him to continue his physics studies at New York University in 1937.

 In 1937, Shull began his graduate studies at New York University. NYU graduate students in physics typically joined a research group in the department. Shull joined the nuclear physics group that was led by Frank Myers and Robert Huntoon. Shull took part in the earliest work with the 200 keV Cockroft-Walton generator as a graduate student. This generator was used for accelerating deuterons and its first experiment studied the D-D nuclear reactions.

In his third year of graduate study, Shull was chosen to assist Frank Myers with the construction of a 400 keV Van de Graaff generator, which was used for accelerating electrons. The plan was to have Shull repeat the electron double-scattering (EDS) experiment—a direct test for electron spin. Myers left on sabbatical and Richard Cox filled in as Shull’s supervisor. Shull received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics in June 1941 after successfully completing his thesis, "Double Scattering of Electrons as a Search for Electron Polarization."

 In his first year at New York University, Clifford Shull was introduced to Martha-Nüel Summer by fellow physics graduate student Craig Crenshaw. Martha-Nüel was doing her graduate work in history at nearby Columbia University. They married in 1941 and, together, they had three sons: John, Robert (also a physicist), and William.

Shull started his career with the Texas Company (now known as Texaco) in Beacon, New York, where his research focused on the microstructure of catalysts used in the manufacturing of high-performance aviation fuel. His work there was deemed important for the war effort and the company successfully fought Shull’s recruitment to the Manhattan Project.

 Not long after the end of World War II, Shull visited the Clinton Laboratory (now Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and became so intrigued by the work the lab was doing that he found a job there in 1945. Working alongside Ernest Wollan, Shull focused his research on crystal and material neutron diffraction patterns, which would lead to his Nobel Prize nearly 50 years later. Shull also worked with Clinton Pile on the study of NaH and NaD crystals, the structure of ice, ferromagnetic crystals, paramagnetic substances, and antiferromagnetic substances.Moreover, Shull and Pile would use neutron diffraction to study the transition elements and the magnetic structure of their alloys.

In August 1956, Shull left Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a chance to mentor graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MITR-1 facility. Shull was temporarily relocated to the Brookhaven National Laboratory for the first 16 months, where he worked with BNL researchers and advised on the construction of the MITR-1's neutron diffraction equipment. He served as a consultant at Brookhaven for a number of years after this temporary assignment.

The MITR-1 reactor became operational in July of 1959. In his Nobel autobiography, Professor Shull summarized his studies at MIT as: “internal magnetization in crystals, development of polarized beam technology, dynamical scattering in perfect crystals, interferometry, and fundamental properties of the neutron.” When the reactor was shut down for modification and overhaul from May of 1974 until 1976, he was able to collaborate with Oak Ridge scientists (W.C. Koehler and R. M. Moon) on the Cu(Fe) Kondo system and the limitations on the accuracy of polarized neutron diffractometry.

Clifford Shull retired from MIT in 1986 -- eight years prior to being awarded the Nobel Prize. Shull mentioned how he should have shared the prize with Wollan at the Nobel ceremony in 1994, but he had passed on in 1984 and the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.

After receiving the Nobel Prize, Shull dutifully made the lecture rounds that are typically demanded of those who achieve such recognition. He also contributed to science policy guidance - especially that involving research with neutrons. On March 31, 2001, Clifford Shull died of kidney failure in Lexington, Massachusetts. Throughout his life, he was honored with several awards and titles, including: the Buckley Prize from the American Physical Society in 1956, the election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1956, the election to the National Academy of Science in 1975, the Humboldt Senior Scientist Award in 1979, the Distinguished Scientist Award (from the Governor of Tennessee) in 1986, the Gregori Aminoff Award in 1993, and the I.M. Frank Prize in 1994. The Neutron Scattering Society of America has established the Clifford G. Shull Award and the UK Antarctic Place-Names Committee named a group of rocks in the Crystal Sound the “Shull Rocks” to commemorate his use of neutron diffraction to determine the position of hydrogen atoms in ice.


The Clifford G. Shull Papers are arranged into ten series, which have been designated for Carnegie Tech, New York University, Oak Ridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Nobel Prize, other awards, correspondence, publications, awards, video tapes, and miscellaneous. These papers include experimental data, drafts of publications, reprints of publications, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, slides, transparencies, and other sundry items. Unique to this collection is information pertaining to the work Shull did with Wollan and others as part of “Atoms for Peace,” a government initiative to find peaceful uses for nuclear technology. The collection provides an inside look at neutron research and a very good example of an active experimental research program that achieved success over many years. High school teachers may find inspirational examples of the use of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry in Professor Shull’s research notes.

While the bulk of the collection has been digitized, some material is not available online due to privacy and copyright concerns. Material that has not been digitized includes incoming correspondence, videos, and memorabilia

New York University

The New York University series contains material concerning Professor Shull's graduate work at New York University. The bulk of the material is focused on his coursework and includes class notes and laboratory experiment reports. Lantern slides of the graphic material from his doctoral dissertation are included as well as the 1941 commencement program for the university. The remainder of the material deals with an informal reunion of his fellow physics graduate students in 1978, an invited speech to the physics department in 1987, and an honorary doctorate that helped to celebrate his receipt of the Nobel Prize. A photograph of the honorees at the 1995 New York University Commencement shows Shull with Kitty Carlisle Hart, Neil Diamond, Henry-Louis Gates, Jr., and Sidney Poitier.


Oak Ridge

The Oak Ridge series includes experimental data, graphs, and theoretical calculations for experiments on iron, iron oxides, and other substances (including cobalt and various manganese compounds, which provides a look at some of the work that led to his Nobel Prize nearly 50 years later. This series also includes a scrapbook of the Oak Ridge social activities of Clifford and Martha-Nuel Shull. There are also reprints of articles by some of Shull's Oak Ridge colleagues and negatives of a few neutron diffraction patterns.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This series contains course materials related to Professor Shull's teaching, materials related to his research with the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, documents related to his research grants, and other administrative documents.


Nobel Prize and Other Awards

This series contains papers concerning the Nobel Prize and other awards. Items related to the Nobel Prize comprise the bulk of this series. Congratulatory letters from friends and colleagues are in this series. Photocopies of overhead transparencies for his Nobel lecture and drafts of his autobiography are included. News clippings have been photocopied for preservation and the originals discarded.



Correspondence of note includes larger folders for Paul Beck, Bronislav Buras, Newell Gingrich, and Morton Hamermesh. There is also correspondence with Bertram Brockhouse that reflects the interchange one would expect between the leaders of two laboratories having similar interests. It is important to note that Professor Shull usually kept colleagues' correspondence with the notes, graphs, data, journal articles, and reports on a particular research topic together in the same folder, especially during his years at MIT. The closer a physicist worked with Clifford Shull, the more likely their correspondence will appear mixed in among the rest of the material on a research topic.



Professor Shull kept a numbered collection of reprints of his papers that correspond to a list of publications. The file is nearly complete and should serve as an overarching guide to his publications. There are a small number of conference papers, published lecture notes, and a book review that were not found in the collection.



The Miscellaneous series includes a diary containing household operating expenses for the Shull family during World War II and Dale Carnegie class materials on effective speaking, leadership training, and human relations. Shull's son Robert's doctoral thesis is here as well as research articles sent to Professor Shull in his retirement years. Many of the research articles are from close or grateful colleagues; some include personal notes.



The following series have not been digitized but are available for in-person research:


Carnegie Tech

The Carnegie Tech series contains Professor Shull's Carnegie Tech diploma and a number of his undergraduate textbooks.



The videos are predominantly "home movies" related to the Nobel Prize ceremony and the resulting symposiums and other banquets honoring Shull and Brockhouse. There are a few professionally-produced videos within this series. The period covered is from 1986 to 1995.



The items in this series range from a stamped envelope commemorating the American Museum of Atomic Energy to the Honorary Doctor of Science Degree awarded by New York University. The period covered is from 1966 to 1995.


Accessing the Collection

The Clifford Glenwood Shull Papers are available for research in the Carnegie Mellon University Archives. Contact the archives to schedule an appointment.

Finding Aid

A guide to the physical for the collection is available online. This guide includes information about materials not included in the digital collection.

Related Materials

The Carnegie Mellon University Archives also holds the Emerson Pugh Papers. Please Contact the archives to schedule an appointment.


1933 - 2001


Copyright for the collection has been transferred to Carnegie Mellon University. The collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.