Pupin Physics Laboratory, Columbia University



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Pupin Hall also known as Pupin Physics Laboratories, is home to the physics and astronomy departments at Columbia University in New York City and a National Historic Landmark. It was built in 1925-1927 to provide more space for the Physics Department which had originally been housed in Fayerweather Hall, and named for Serbian physicist Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin, who graduated with honors in 1883 at Columbia College, after his death in 1935. The building is located on the south side of 120th Street, just east of Broadway. It has been named a National Historic Landmark for its association with experiments relating to the splitting of the atom, achieved in connection with the later Manhattan Project.
The current entrance to Pupin Physics Laboratoriesis on the 5th floor from the plaza above Dodge Physical Fitness Center. This means that many of the seminar rooms in Pupin on floors 2-4, while above ground, are below campus level and, therefore, windowless - a bad place to have to sit through a discussion section. The original entryway was on the first floor from the Grove, but got blocked by the construction of Dodge in the 1960's. The entryway smells like chlorine because Uris Pool has an exit stairway leading into Pupin's entry for some reason.
The Rutherfurd Observatory is on top of Pupin Physics Laboratories, which is convenient for the Astronomy Department professors who also work in Pupin Physics Laboratories. Unfortunately, the night sky in New York is sometimes too bright for it to be used. Instead, astronomy types have to head to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Nevertheless, the Astronomy Department hosts bi-monthly Public Observing Nights.

The Pupin Physics Laboratory, Columbia University building is a landmark due to the advances in nuclear research made there during the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapon. It is connected to the university tunnels, from which one can occasionally access the Manhattan Project's leftover cyclotron and other historic research facilities. Sadly, many of these have been sealed off since the 1980s, when Ken Hechtman wrought havoc with nuclear materials he stole from Pupin's basement.
Other discoveries and breakthroughs achieved in Pupin include:
The discovery of deuterium by Harold Urey
The investigation of neutron phenomena by George Peagram
The construction of one of the country's first cyclotrons (it remains in the basement)
January 25, 1939: the first splitting of a uranium atom in the United States, by Enrico Fermi

By 1931, the Pupin Physics Laboratory, Columbia University building which would later become Pupin Hall was a leading research center. During this time Harold Urey (Nobel laureate in Chemistry) discovered deuterium and George Pegram was investigating the phenomena associated with the newly discovered neutron. In 1938, Enrico Fermi escaped fascist Italy after winning the Nobel prize for his work on induced radioactivity. In fact, he took his wife and children with him to Stockholm and immediately emigrated to New York. Shortly after arriving he began working at Columbia. His work on nuclear fission, together with I. I. Rabi's work on atomic and molecular physics, ushered in a golden era of fundamental research at the university. One of the country's first cyclotrons was built in the basement of Pupin Hall, where parts of it still remain. The building's historic significance was secured with the first splitting of a uranium atom in the United States, which was achieved by Enrico Fermi in Pupin Hall on January 25, 1939, just 10 days after the world's first such successful experiment, carried out in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Pupin Hall is named after Mihajlo Idvorski Pupin (also known as Michael I. Pupin), a Serbian-American scientist and graduate of Columbia. Returning to the university's engineering school as a faculty member, he played a key role in establishing the department of electrical engineering. Pupin was also a brilliant inventor, developing methods for rapid x-ray photography and the "Pupin coil," a device for increasing the range of long-distance telephones. After his death in 1935, the university trustees named the newly constructed physics building the "Pupin Physics Laboratories" in his honor.
The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965. In 2009 the American Physical Society named Pupin Hall a historic site and honored Isidor Isaac Rabi for his work in the field of magnetic resonance.