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Duff, A. Wilmer (Alexander Wilmer), 1864-1955



  • Existence: 1864 - 1955

Biographical Information

Alexander Wilmer Duff was born in St. John, New Brunswick in 1864. He graduated from the University of St. John, and later studied at the Universities of London and Germany and in 1901 received his Doctor of Science from the University of Edinburgh. Duff was professor of physics at the University of Madras, India from 1889-1890; the University of New Brunswick from 1890-1893; Purdue University from 1893-1899; and at WPI he was chair and professor of the physics department from 1893-1936.

Robert Goddard was one his students from the class of 1908. Duff received a Degree of Science Honorary degree from WPI in 1943. Duff's research areas included viscosity, acoustics, tidal phenomena, and cathode rays. He was the recipient of the Oersted Award in 1938 for Notable Contributions to the Teaching of Physics. During World War I, Duff was a consultant and experimental engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps where he worked on bomb sites, trajectories, and stabilizers.

Duff wrote several books in the field of physics, but is most well known for his "A Textbook on Physics". This book was first published in 1908 and had 8 subsequent editions published and was the leading textbook in physics for the next 30 years. Duff married Isabel Stewart McIntosh in 1894, Isabel died in 1907. They had one child, Ella Duff Good. Ella became head physician at the Grafton State Hospital. Duff died February 24, 1951 in Worcester, MA.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute Archives. Finding Guide to A. Wilmer Duff Collection. Retrieved August 5, 2009, from:

1895 Debris.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

A. Wilmer Duff papers

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 20, Placement: 05
Identifier: MSF 109
Scope and Contents Two folders containing articles by A. Wilmer Duff.
Dates: 1894 - 1898