James P.C. Southall

James P.C. Southall

James P. C. Southall was born in Norfolk, Va. on April 4, 1871. He obtained an A.B. in 1891 and an M.A. in 1893 from the University of Virginia. A devoted teacher, Southall began his career as an instructor in physics at the University of Virginia and taught physics and mathematics at the Miller Manual Training School, in Albemarle, Va. He spent a year as a fellow at Johns Hopkins University and then in 1899 moved to Hobart College, Geneva, N.Y.

Four years later 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. 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.