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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MORLEY, EDWARD WILLIAMS - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MORLEY, EDWARD WILLIAMS (29 Jan. 1838-24 Feb. 1923), scientist and professor at Western Reserve University whose work with ALBERT MICHELSON† laid a foundation for Albert Einstein's later work, was born in Newark, N.J., to Sardis Brewster and Anna Clarissa Treat Morley. He graduated from Williams College (1860), received his master's degree from Andover Theological Seminary (1863), and worked for the Sanitary Commission during the CIVIL WAR. In 1868, Morley received 2 job offers: first as clergyman in Twinsburg, and then as chair of natural history and chemistry at Western Reserve College in Hudson, which he chose. From 1873-88, he was professor of toxicology in WRC's Medical Department in Cleveland.

From 1878-82, Morley studied the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere, and from 1882-93 worked to determine the relative atomic weights of hydrogen and oxygen. In 1884, Morley began work with Albert A. Michelson, first building an accurate interferometer (1885), then conducting the experiment (1887) which found that the supposed all-pervasive ether had no apparent effect on the speed of light, contributing significantly to the upheaval in late-19th-century physics that was essentially resolved by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Morley was president of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science (1895) and the American Chemical Society (1899). In 1902 he finished second in balloting for the Nobel Prize in chemistry. In 1907 he received the Rumford Medal from the Royal Society (London). Morley retired as professor emeritus to West Hartford, Conn., in 1906 with his wife, Isabella Birdsall Morley, whom he married in 1868. They were childless.

University Archives, CWRU.

Last Modified: 21 Jul 1997 11:18:22 AM

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