Did you know? Masonic Philately

Sir George Cathcart No. 617

Albert A. Michelson (1872-1931)


Scientist and Nobel Prize Winner



German-born U.S. Physicist who established the speed of light as a fundamental constant and pursued other spectroscopic and metrological investigations. He received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Michelson went to the United States with his parents when he was two years old. From New York, the family made its way to Virginia City, Nev., and San Francisco, where the elder Michelson prospered as a merchant.

At 17, Michelson entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., where he did

well in science but was rather below average in seamanship. He was graduated in 1873, then served as science instructor at the academy from 1875 until 1879. In 1878 Michelson began work on what was to be the passion of his life, the accurate measurement of the speed of light. He was able to get useful values with homemade apparatus. Feeling the need to study optics before he could be qualified to make real progress, he travelled to Europe in 1880 and spent two years in Berlin, Heidelberg, and Paris, resigning from the navy in 1881. Upon his return to the United States, he determined the velocity of light to be 299,853 kilometers (186,329 miles) per second, a value that remained the best for a generation. When it was bettered, Michelson bettered it.

While in Europe, Michelson began constructing an interferometer, a device designed to split a beam of light in two, send the parts along perpendicular paths, then bring them back together. If the light waves had, in the interim, fallen out of step, interference fringes of alternating light and dark bands would be obtained. From the width and number of those fringes, unprecedently delicate measurements could be made, comparing the velocity of light rays travelling at right angles to each other.

1927 he served as president of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1907 he became the first American ever to receive a Nobel Prize in the sciences, for his spectroscopic and metrological investigations, the first of many honors he was to receive.


Brother Albert became a member of Washington Lodge No.21 New York City in 1875


Stamps Issued:- Sweden 1967 S.G. 546