Compton, the family name of three United States educators and scientists. The Compton brothers were born in Wooster, Ohio, and attended college there. All received Ph.D. degrees from Princeton.

Arthur Holly Compton

(1892-1962), a physicist noted for research on X rays and cosmic rays and for work that led to the first nuclear chain reaction. He shared the 1927 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering that X rays lose energy (as indicated by an increase in wavelength) when scattered by electrons, thereby showing that X rays behave like individual particles. Discovery of the Compton effect, as this behavior is called, aided the development of quantum mechanics by establishing that electromagnetic radiation has a particle nature as well as a wave nature. In the 1930's Compton conducted worldwide research on the intensity of cosmic rays.

During World War II, he participated in the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb. Working at the University of Chicago, Compton directed research on methods of producing plutonium.

Compton taught at Washington University in St. Louis, 1920-23, and at the University of Chicago, 1923-45. He was chancellor of Washington University, 1945-53, resigning to conduct research on the relation of science to human affairs. His books include X Rays and Electrons (1926); The Freedom of Man (1935); The Human Meaning of Science (1940); and Atomic Quest (1956).

Karl Taylor Compton

(1887-1954), a physicist who made many discoveries in the field of electrical discharges. He taught physics at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, 1913-15, and at Princeton University, 1915-30. He was president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1930-48, and head of the Research and Development Board of the U.S. Department of Defense, 1948-49. Compton was a leader in the development of radar, rockets, guided missiles, and the atomic bomb.

Wilson Martindale Compton

(1890-1967), an educator and economist. He taught at Dartmouth College, 1915-16, and was an economist for the Federal Trade Commission, 1916-18. He was active in the lumber industry until 1944. Compton was president of the State College of Washington and the State Experiment Station, 1945-51. He was chief of the International Information Administration of the State Department, 1952-53, having charge of the Voice of America radio program and other projects. Later he became head of the Council for Financial Aid to Education, Inc., in New York City.