F. Dudley Williams

Dudley Williams, Regents’ Professor of Physics from 1964 until 1982, died December 2 in Las Cruces, N.M.

At K-State Dr. Williams conducted research on infrared spectroscopy and was internationally known for this work.  He also was the primary lecturer in Engineering Physics for most of his career here.  His interest in teaching led him to write two textbooks for calculus-based physics.  The co-author on the first book Elements of Physics was George Shortley.  This book was published by Prentice-Hall and had three successful editions.  Later Dudley teamed with KSU Professor John Spangler to write Physics for Science and Engineering, which was published by Van Nostrand in 1981.  

Prof. Williams came to KSU following a lengthy career that was highlighted by his participation on the team led by Robert Oppenheimer that developed the first atomic bomb.

He was part of the on-site team for the first test of the weapon at Los Alamos, N.M.; his responsibilities involved measuring thermal radiation during the July 1945 test. As such, he witnessed the first test of the bomb.

''I went outside in time to see the awesome but strangely beautiful cloud column rising above Ground Zero,'' he recalled years later of his experience at what became known as the Trinity test site.

''The surface around the hole was actually covered by a green glossy material formed when the original surface of the desert ground had been melted. The 90-foot steel tower on which the gadget (the bomb) had been mounted had been completely vaporized.''

Following completion of his work in what was known at the time as the ''Manhattan Project,'' Mr. Williams joined the faculty at Ohio State University. He worked for one year at North Carolina State before accepting an offer to become the Regents Professor of Physics at Kansas State.

He served a term as president of the Optical Society of America.

Known for his wit and insight as well as his scholarly knowledge, Mr. Williams lived in Manhattan from his 1982 retirement until a few years ago. A native of Oxford, Ga., he was a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, which in 2000 awarded him its Alumni Medal for distinguished achievement.

Parts of this article were reprinted from the Manhattan Mercury, January 13, 2005.