Carl T. Tomizuka


To Carl T. Tomizuka, for outstanding original research contributions to our understanding of atomic motion in solids and the effects of high pressure on the properties of matter, and for his leadership in promoting science careers for women and members of underrepresented groups.

Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Arizona, Tucson

  • BS, 1945, Physics, Tokyo University
  • MS, 1951, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • PhD, 1954, Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Carl T. Tomizuka describes his achievements as the result of “being at the right place at the right time with the right people.”He survived the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 as an infant and lived through devastating incendiary raids on Tokyo. In 1949, he competed with more than 7,000 other young Japanese students for 100 graduate fellowships in the United States. He was selected for a fellowship and was assigned to the master’s program in physics at Illinois. In 1954, as Tomizuka was finishing his doctorate, the McCarran–Walter Act provided for the immigration of 100 Japanese citizens to the United States. Tomizuka was selected for one of those slots.

At Illinois, Tomizuka carried out pioneering experiments in the precise measurement of the rate of atomic motion in solids using radioactive tracers. His legacy was a platinum thermocouple that he personally calibrated to the international standard. This instrument became known as the “Tomizuka-standard standard thermocouple.” After receiving his PhD, he worked on John Bardeen’s experimental program in semiconductor physics and then as a research assistant professor before moving to the University of Chicago. In 1960, Tomizuka joined the faculty at the University of Arizona, where he extended his work on the effects of high pressure on the physical properties of solids. After retiring, Tomizuka embarked on a second career as a consultant for U.S. inventors and companies seeking to obtain and defend Japanese patents.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Tomizuka has focused attention on the problem of underrepresentation of women and minorities in science and engineering. With feminist Sheila Tobias, he published Breaking the Science Barrier: How to Explore and Understand the Sciences. Written for high school and beginning college students, the book explores the fundamentals of understanding science and offers practical advice on preparing for college.

Current as of 2010.