University of Texas
Emmett Leroy Hudspeth
December 3, 1916–January 1, 2000



Emmett Leroy Hudspeth


Emmett Leroy Hudspeth was born to be a scientist and a teacher. Tall, 6'4", and distinguished, always dressed in a suit and tie, which for an experimental physicist was unusual even in his generation, he was the ideal image of the senior professor. From his first exposure to education, it was clear that he was an outstanding student of science. His appetite for knowledge was huge. As a teenager, he amused himself by virtually memorizing the "Book of Knowledge."

Hudspeth was born December 3, 1916, in Denton, Texas. He was educated in the public schools of Texas, and was valedictorian at the Arlington High School in 1933. Emmett attended Rice University and earned Phi Beta Kappa and a bachelor's degree in 1937. He stayed at Rice for graduate study and completed a PhD under the direction of H. A. Wilson in 1940, at the age of 23.

Emmett's first postdoctoral job was at the Bartol Research Foundation (now Institute), located on the Swarthmore College campus in Pennsylvania. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the war effort at the MIT Radiation Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He worked with I. I. Rabi and Tom Bonner in the group that helped develop radar. After the war, he returned to work at the Bartol Research Foundation, where he was a fellow and later the assistant director. ( In 1949 Emmett was recruited by Chairman M. Y. Colby to build a Van de Graaff generator(accelerator). His reference letters came from an impressive collection of scientist. T. W. Bonner, of Rice Univerisity, R. J. Van de Graaff, of High Voltage Engineering Corporation, W.F.G. Swann, Director of Bartol, Ernest C. Pollard, then professor of physics and biophysics at Yale(had worked with Emmett at MIT Rad Lab), L. A. DuBridge, Cal Tech President (previous director of MIT Rad Lab.), I. I. Rabi, Nobelist and Chair of Columbia University Physics Department, and R. G. Herb, Professor of Physics at Wisconsin and major contributor to the design of Van de Graaff accelerators.— Mel Oakes.)

In 1950, Emmett joined the physics department at The University of Texas at Austin. He served as chairman of the department and as graduate advisor. He was an excellent and dedicated teacher of undergraduate and graduate students. He was among the first, nationally, to recognize the importance of teaching physics to liberal arts students, and he developed and taught what has become known nationally as a "Physics for Poets" course.

Dr. Hudspeth was also the founder of the University's Center for Nuclear Physics, and he served as director for many of its formative years. This effort led a government-funded program devoted to research using a high-energy particle accelerator, and made the University one of the world's premier institutions for pioneering research on the internal structure of the nucleus.

Emmett supervised twenty-five dissertations in nuclear physics and medical physics. His students admired him for many qualities. He was always available and approachable, and yet, his mind was so quick and his knowledge of nuclear physics so profound that they all had to respect him. He had an endless series of experiments planned, seeking new ground and knowledge in nuclear physics. He was willing to share success with his students. In those days, it was customary for dissertation results, if they could be published, to be sent in with the professor as the senior author. Emmett authored and submitted such results with the student as the senior author. That graciousness was one of many reasons his students chose to honor him by establishing the Emmett L. Hudspeth Centennial Lectureship in Physics.

Besides Emmett's success as an academic, he also had an entrepreneurial side. At the age of fourteen, he bought a small printing press and founded the "American Printing Company." This was not a successful operation. In 1956, though, he expanded his research interests and founded the Texas Nuclear Corporation, which initially did contract research on shielding for the ill-fated nuclear powered aircraft. Under his direction, the corporation went into the business of producing small particle accelerators for commercial purposes, and, finally, very successfully, medical and oil well diagnostic instruments. This business was later acquired by the Nuclear Chicago Corporation, which then merged with G. D. Searle & Co. Later, he was founder and president of the Medical Monitor Research Corporation.

A man of rich, well thought out, and varied opinions, Emmett was very fond of debate and discussion. At heart, he was what is now described as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. He was incredibly well informed. Not one to just discuss his beliefs, he lived by them. Ultimately, in 1978, to bring these views to a larger audience, he took a leave of absence and ran unsuccessfully for Congress from the 10th District on the Republican ticket against an unbeatable opponent, the Honorable J. Jake Pickle.

Emmett was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a fellow of the American Physical Society. Published extensively in the field of experimental nuclear physics, he was best known for his pioneering research on the energy levels and properties of light nuclei.

Emmett Hudspeth passed away on January 1, 2000. He was survived by a daughter and her husband, three sons and their wives, eight grandchildren, and two brothers.


Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin


John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty


This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Austin M. Gleeson (chair), Thomas A. Griffy, and Kenneth W. Gentle.


Emmett L. Hudspeth Obituary
Austin American Statesman 2000

Dr. Emmett L. Hudspeth, Professor Emeritus of Physics, the University of Texas at Austin, died on January 1, 2000, at the age of 83.

Dr. Hudspeth was born in Denton, Texas, December 3, 1916, the fifth of seven children, to Junia Evans Hudspeth and Ethel Burns Hudspeth. In 1923, the family moved to Arlington, Texas. After completing one-year at the local college, he attended Rice University in Houston. He receiyed his undergraduate degree in 1937 and his doctorate in physics in 1940. During World War II, he worked at the Bartol Research Foundation in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, followed by work at the Radiation Laboratory at MIT in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Hudspeth’s research and work during World War II helped develop radar, an accomplishment that made him very proud. After the war, he returned to work at the Bartol Research Foundation.

In 1949, he accepted a professorship at the University of Texas; he enjoyed his work as a professor there for 34 years. He mentored 25 doctoral candidates to reach their goal of PhD in physics. Former students, friends, associates and colleagues honored Dr. Hudspeth by establishing the Emmett L. Hudspeth Centennial Lectureship in Physics.

At the University, Dr. Hudspeth led a government-funded program that conducted research using a high-energy particle accelerator. This enabled students to pioneer research on the internal structure of the atom. In 1956, he expanded this research and founded Texas Nuclear Corporation, a business that was later acquired by Nuclear Chicago. He was founder and President of the Medical Monitor Research Corporation. He ran, unsuccessfully, for Congress in 1978.

While making a train trip to visit his sister in Kilgore, Dr. Hudspeth met the woman who would become his wife. He married Mary Alice Barnes on December 2, 1944, in Denton; they recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. In his retirement, he remained active in many arenas. One of his passions was art. Mrs. Hudspeth’s aunt, Elizabeth Olds, an artist, left the collection of her artwork to Dr. and Mrs. Hudspeth. He spent many years overseeing it and, in 1997, they donated the Elizabeth Olds Collection to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hudspeth is survived by his wife Mary; his daughter and her husband Anne and Brad Tierce; his sons and their wives, John, Philip and Beth, Paul and Christi; eight grandchildren; and two brothers, William J. Hudspeth Sr., and C. M. (Hank) Hudspeth, He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters and two brothers.

Dr. Hudspeth endured a prolonged and painful degenerative back illness, exacerbated by leukemia. The family would like to extend heart felt thanks and appreciation to the staff of Westminster Manor for their care and kindness.

Memorial contributions may be made to; The University of Texas at Austin; P.O. Box 7458; Austin, TX. 78713-7458; for "the Emmett L. Hudspeth Centennial Lectureship in Physics (checks made payable. to; The University of Texas); or to: Alzheimer’s Associatio,; Greater Austin Chapte,; P.O. Box 482,; Austin, TX 78765.



Emmett Leroy Hudspeth Photo Album
Emmett Leroy Hudspeth,
Emmett Leroy Hudspeth, Rice University yearbook, Campanile, 1938
Emmett is at left of second row from top.
Emmett Leroy Hudspeth Campaign for Congrees Photo
Hudspeth for Congress
Hudspeth for Congress

Student Story about Emmett Hudspeth by Dr.Jim Richard

Jim received his Ph.D in Physics in 1954 and now lives in Houston, Texas. We appreciate his story and know that you will as well.

By James Rickard
July, 2014 .

disar'taSHan/ noun: dissertation; plural noun: dissertations 1. a long essay on a particular subject, especially one written as a requirement for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

After a couple of years in graduate school at the University of Texas, I had about completed my course work and was ready to start my dissertation. Selection of a topic and a supervising professor is a delicate dance between students and faculty. The student wants a professor with a challenging but achievable project. It is essential that the professor have the respect of the other professors who are duty bound to challenge the student on the scientific worth of his project. The professor wants a student who is smart and works hard, can complete the task chosen, and above all, produces a publishable result.

I tried working for a couple of professors, hoping to find a fit. The first was only interested in optics, which did not appeal to me. The second I sent packing for daring to suggest that I should prefer working in his lab on Saturday afternoons to watching University of Texas football games.

I finally found a perfect major professor, barely in his thirties but with a reputation as a coming star. Best of all, he had a lucrative government contract to build the biggest Van de Graaff generator in existence, with funds to hire students to do the grunt-work. Worst of all, I would need a completed Van de Graaff to do my research.

Van de Graaffs are a type of atom smasher that, for experimental physics, must be hand built over a period of a few years. I would have a good and interesting job for my entire stay with my major professor, Dr. Emmett Hudspeth, but I would be there for a while. Well, I was unmarried, didn't need a lot of money, and would be doing something I really enjoyed, so I signed on.

A Van de Graaff generator consists of a vacuum chamber of about 18 inches in diameter and perhaps twenty feet long. Inside the chamber there is an endless belt that transports electrons up to the top, thereby generating a voltage of up to five million volts above ground. Deuterons or protons are then fired down the vacuum tube to impinge on carefully chosen targets, creating observable nuclear interactions, which reveal many of the nuclear characteristics of the target material.

Our machine was located in an abandoned World War II magnesium manufacturing plant several miles outside Austin, so we were pretty much on our own in the workplace. In addition to becoming nuclear physicists, we student workers would become fairly competent electricians, carpenters, machinists, vacuum engineers, welders, and general handy men. We worked under the supervision of a grizzled forty-year old man of all trades, and he taught us well. It was there that I learned so many of the manual skills that would help me make and repair everyday objects.

This learning experience did not come quickly to any of us students, and we made our share of blunders, both in planning and execution. Dr. Hudspeth would just laugh and say, "We'd better take back that last improvement." I remember all too well the day we finally got the vacuum tube outgassed and down to the desired vacuum, when one of us greenhorns (not me, as luck would have it) pulled the wrong handle, let in air, and ruined two weeks work. Our supervisor just threw his hands up and left for the day. He was gracious enough not to tell us how incompetent we were.

Three years flew by quickly, and when the generator was finished I got all of the data I needed for my dissertation in one week, with most of it coming in one afternoon. I met and married Marge about a year before I finished my dissertation. She made a very important contribution by typing the dissertation, a non-trivial task in view of some of the equations involved. I made lifelong friends there, notably including Dr. Hudspeth. To me, he was a great man. Many years later I was honored to help establish an endowed lectureship in Physics in his name.

The lectureship was announced at a special meeting of the Physics Department in the University Club. Cocktails flowed freely and everybody was having a smashing good time. Near the end of the meeting, I was called on to say a few words. At that point I thought a joke involving Dr. Hudspeth would be well received.

I said, "Last night I dreamed there was a terrible train wreck which killed Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Emmett Hudspeth. When they got to heaven St. Peter said, "Hmff. You’re barely eligible to be here. Come along and I'll show you your quarters." They walked along a corridor and came to a first door, which opened onto a room containing a large fierce bear. He growled, had halitosis, and his fur was coming off in patches. A voice came out of the heavens, saying, "Ike Eisenhower, you have sinned, and in atonement must spend eternity with this terrible bear." The second room contained a huge angry tiger. The voice said, "Lyndon Johnson, you have sinned, and in atonement, must spent eternity with this awful tiger." St Peter led Emmett to the third room, and by now he was getting pretty nervous. The door opened to reveal Bo Derek, more ravishingly beautiful in person than in the movies. The voice said, "Bo Derek, you have sinned, and in atonement... ........". Emmett got me aside later and asked, "Jim, who is Bo Derek?"