James P.C. Southall

© AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Awards & Distinctions



1921 President James P. C. Southall was born in Virginia, U.S., in 1871. He obtained an A.B. in 1891 and an M.A. in 1893 from the University of Virginia, U.S. Southall began his career teaching physics at the University of Virginia. He also taught physics and mathematics at the Miller Manual Training School, Virginia, U.S. He spent a year as a fellow at Johns Hopkins University and then in 1899 moved to Hobart College, U.S.

In 1901, Southall joined the faculty at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and in 1914, he joined the faculty at Columbia University, where he served until his retirement in 1940.

He played an instrumental role in the formation of the Society, serving on the Executive Council upon its founding in 1916.

His two specialties were geometrical optics and physiological optics. Southall wrote Principles of Geometrical Optics and Mirrors, Prisms and Lenses. However, he is probably best known as editor of the American edition of Helmholtz’s Physiological Optics. He also wrote Introduction to Physiological Optics.

During the World War I, Southall was a consultant to the War Department on range finders, periscopes, gunsights and similar optical equipment. Fifteen of his articles were published in JOSA on such optics as ray tracing, conjugate surfaces, geometrical optics, and the early pioneers in physiological optics.  In retirement, Southall returned to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, and donated most of his books and papers to the university library.

Southall died in 1962.



Document Created: 12 Jun 2013
Last Updated: 17 Sep 2021