Hint: It's not game day at Camp Randall Stadium.
Chamberlin Hall on University Avenue is home to the L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum which hosts an array of fascinating and interactive exhibits. The museum is also home to the Gravity Pit, Infinite Reflections and the Mystery Window.
The museum was the brainchild of founder and namesake, Leonard Rose Ingersoll (1880-1958), whose lifelong dedication to nurturing scientific curiosity lives on at 1150 University Avenue.
Ingersoll was born in New York City in 1880 and grew up in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from Colorado College in 1902, the same year Wisconsin professor Charles Slichter invited him to Madison as a Mathematics scholar.
Ingersoll published his first scholarly paper in 1903, was granted a fellowship in Physics the following year and received his Ph.D. from the University in 1905.
He immediately joined the Physics faculty as an instructor and was made full professor in 1925. Ingersoll’s principle research area was optical properties of matter.
Although he formally retired from teaching in 1950, Ingersoll continued his research work on campus. In 1952, he was awarded a special research contract with the Naval Research Laboratories.
Ingersoll faithfully served the University of Wisconsin from 1904 to the time of his death in his laboratory in Sterling Hall in 1958.
Ingersoll helped to plan for the construction of Sterling Hall which opened in 1918 and strongly advocated for the inclusion of a museum solely devoted to Physics -- the first of its kind in the country.
The museum was a particular passion and priority for Ingersoll who insisted that the exhibits be “small boy proof” to encourage young students’ interest in the field. He set up the Physics Museum in 1918 and added new artifacts and equipment over the years.
In fact, he installed a new collection on the day of his death.
In addition to his academic accomplishments, Ingersoll maintained a lifelong passion for music. He hosted chamber music concerts on Sunday afternoons and in 1957, made a special trip to New York City with his wife to hear all of Wagner’s Ring operas. Ingersoll was also an active member of the University Heights Poetry Club in Madison.
Colleagues remembered Ingersoll as a persistent and accomplished storyteller, adept at recalling his daily routine from an amusing perspective, often revealing a joke on himself.
University of Wisconsin President E.B. Fred honored his service citing, “He was at his best with undergraduates and led them into the complex world of physics in a way that kept many dedicated to the field for life.”
Shortly after Ingersoll’s death, the Physics Museum was rededicated as the L. R. Ingersoll Museum of Physics in honor of its founder and lifelong champion.
Find out more about the L. R. Ingersoll Museum and plan a visit at http://www.physics.wisc.edu/museum/
This story was submitted by The University Archives which collects, manages and preserves materials that document campus history. For more information about the Archives and its collections, visit http://archives.library.wisc.edu.