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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 61
KARL TAYLOR COMPTON
September 14, 1887-June 22, 1954
BY JULIUS A. STRATTON
TO DO FULL. JUSTICE to Karl Compton is an impossible task, for the range of his interests and activities was virtually limitless, his effect upon the scientific community profound, and his service to our country in time of war—and in quieter days—far greater than a nation could expect from a single individual. He was a leader whose fine mind matched his radiant personality and understanding heart. He was a man of principle whose transparently honest goals moved men, a warm friend who inspired loyalty, and a mentor who engendered pride in achievement. Those of us who knew him closely felt the shining example of his own life, and the intervening years make us ever more conscious of the greatest of his legacies to us—his focused and unquenchable spirit.
THE EARLY YEARS (1887-1918)
Karl Taylor Compton was born in Wooster, Ohio, on September 14, 1887, the eldest child of Elias and Otelia Augspurger Compton. Mary, Wilson, and Arthur would follow. Elias's Anglo-Saxon Presbyterian forebears had come to America prior to the Revolution and eventually settled in Ohio, to which Otelia's family—Alsatian and Hessian Mennonites —came early in the nineteenth century.