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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

DODGE, HOMER LEVI (1887–1983).

A physicist and administrator at the University of Oklahoma, Homer Levi Dodge was born in Ogdensburg, New York, on October 21, 1887. After graduating from Colgate University in 1910, he earned a master's degree (1912) and a doctorate (1914) in physics at the University of Iowa. He remained at Iowa as an instructor and assistant professor until moving to Washington, D.C., during World War I to help with the war effort. While there, he came to the attention of some University of Oklahoma (OU) professors who were also engaged in war work and who knew that the university was seeking a well-trained physicist. Pres. Stratton Brooks persuaded Dodge, who had been earning $3,600 a year, to come to Norman as head of the Physics Department at a salary of $2,400. The thirty-one-year-old Dodge arrived a few weeks before the start of the 1919–20 academic year to discover that all three members of his new department had unexpectedly resigned.

Over the next quarter century Dodge built a solid and creditable department with a growing national reputation. His own work as a physicist and an administrator was guided by two important core convictions. First, although he believed strongly in traditional theoretical research, he was also devoted to applied physics and to the inculcation of sound physical principles in the education of those doing practical work. Toward that end, in 1924 he founded, in cooperation with the OU College of Engineering, a School of Engineering Physics and was its director until he left Norman in 1942.

Second, although he understood and appreciated the importance of research, he became one of the nation's foremost advocates of the duty to improve the teaching of physics. He was the founder of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and in 1931–32 was the obvious choice to be its first president. Much of the AAPT's success was due to Dodge's tireless work during the 1930s. In that connection, in 1932 he and others originated the journal American Physics Teacher (later The American Journal of Physics). In 1944 Homer Dodge was awarded the prestigious Oersted Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field.

In addition to his other many other duties at OU, Dodge was appointed the second dean of the university's Graduate College in 1926, serving in that position until leaving Norman. He was also the principal founder of the University of Oklahoma Research Institute and its director from its opening day until he left the university. Dodge also actively participated in campus political, social, and religious life. He married Margaret Wing in 1917; the couple produced a son and a daughter and remained together until her death in 1981. Dodge was also well known as an avid canoeist, paddling thousands of miles wherever he was; his last race occurred when he was eighty-seven.

In 1942 he took a leave of absence from the university to once again undertake war-related work in Washington, D.C. While there, he accepted an offer to become the president of Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He presided over Norwich until his retirement in 1950. Dodge continued an energetic career of national and international service until his death on June 29, 1983, at the age of ninety-five. In 2005 the Physics Department at the University of Oklahoma was renamed the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy.

David W. Levy


Albert A. Bartlett, "Homer Levi Dodge," Physics Today 37 (January 1984).

Richard G. Fowler, Late Start, Fast Finish: Gaining Respect for Physics on the Great Plains (Norman: Hooper Printing Co., 1991).

Janet B. Guernsey, "Homer Dodge—First President of AAPT," Physics Teacher 17 (February 1979).

Homer Levi Dodge Collection, Center for the History of Physics, College Park, Maryland.

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
David W. Levy, “Dodge, Homer Levi,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=DO014.

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