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I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Langmuir and his airplane(s) to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.

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IRVING LANGMUIR

Yes, he's that Irving Langmuir who, as far as I can tell, is the only Nobel Prize winner to sign any of our airfield Registers.

Irving Langmuir and His Children, Date Unknown (Source: Link)
Irving Langmuir and Children, Date Unknown (Source: Link)

 

Based at Schenectady, NY, Langmuir landed at Willow Grove Saturday, May 16, 1931 (about a year before he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discoveries in surface chemistry). He arrived in the Waco RNF NC663Y (S/N 3356; (still registered with the FAA and based in Ohio).

He left us no record of passengers, or of where he arrived from, or where he was headed. Unusual for a scientist of his caliber. At left is an undated (ca. 1920s?) photo of Langmuir with his children, Barbara and Kenneth. This photograph is from the same link as the cloud seeding, below.

His connection with Schenectady was at the Research Laboratory of the General Electric Company (GE), where he was a chemist and physicist for 41 years. His early work with gas discharge tubes led to greater efficiencies in electric lighting. He coined the word "plasma," in case you've ever wondered where the word came from that describes ionized gas.

As of the upload date of this page, there are over 100,000 Google hits for "Irving Langmuir." For example, if you would like to kick your reading level up a notch, the text of his Nobel Lecture, December 14, 1932, is at the link (PDF 210Kb). Many of the links have photographs of Langmuir. One has an interesting biography written by the National Academy of Sciences (PDF 1.4Mb). This biography includes a bibliography of the 200 or so publications written by Langmuir and his collaborators during the years he was with GE.

Specifically in aviation, several of his Google hits allude to the fact that one of Langmuir's hobbies was flying. At YouTube is a short video clip that includes (at 1:32) a scene of people around what is identified as Langmuir's airplane. Langmuir is not in this scene. There are two different airplanes shown, one which appears to be a Fairchild (FC-2?) and the other a Curtiss or Stinson. The commentator states that Langmuir flew two airplanes, one an "open seater" and a "cabin one." The "open seater" was probably NC663Y. In 1937 he published "Air traffic regulations as applied to private aviation" in Sportsman Pilot, 18:8. If anyone has more information about his flying life, please let me KNOW. The video clip also shows Langmuir talking at about 52 seconds about the virtues of basic research.

Cloud Seeding in a Race Track Pattern, Ca. 1940s-50s (Source: Link)
Cloud Seeding in a Race Track Pattern, Ca. 1940s-50s (Source: Link)

 

One category of his later work was what he called "science out-of-doors." He had broad interest in natural phenomena, especially atmospheric and meterological phenomena, and he fed that interest later in his career.

In 1936 he authored, with A. Forbes, "Airplane tracks in the surface of stratus clouds." The article was published in the Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, 3:385. At right, a photograph from this link that demonstrates cloud seeding. From 1948 to 1953, Langmuir published about a dozen articles related to cloud seeding with various chemicals to produce rain. He was on the cover of Time on August 28, 1950, posed under a cartoonish umbrella with rain all around his head.

The following article appeared in The New York Times on the occasion of his retirement from GE in 1950. Interestingly, the first couple of paragraphs expose a facet of his beliefs that would be championed by certain contemporary far-right Congressional groups. And, like most scientists, some things you win and some you lose. His predictions about the control of weather have yet to reach practical application. His flying activities are not mentioned.

The New York Times, January 3, 1950 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, January 3, 1950 (Source: NYT)

Langmuir was born January 31, 1881 in Brooklyn, NY and passed away August 16, 1957 (heart attack) at Woods Hole, MA. His obituary from The New York TImes of August 17, 1957 is below. It mentions briefly his flying activities.

Irving Langmuir, Obituary, The New York Times, August 17, 1957 (Source: NYT)
Irving Langmuir, Obituary, The New York Times, August 17, 1957 (Source: NYT)

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/13/13 REVISED: 11/21/16