Frances Gertrude Wick
Faculty, Physics

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Frances Gertrude Wick
Faculty, Physics


Frances Gertrude Wick was born in 1875 in Butler, Pennsylvania to Sarah Ann (Mechling) Wick and Alfred Wick, an innkeeper and oil producer. She attended Wilson College, graduating with an A.B. in 1897, and then returned to Butler to teach high school for six years. Preparations for her science lessons led Wick to develop an interest in physics, and she resigned from her teaching position in 1904 to pursue graduate study at Cornell University. She earned her PhD in Physics in 1908, writing her dissertation on the electrical properties of silicon

After graduating from Cornell, Wick became a physics instructor, first at Simmons from 1908 to 1910, and then at Vassar beginning in 1910. During World War I, she briefly left her teaching position to work for the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps, researching airplane radios and gun sights. At Vassar, Wick was promoted to professor in 1922, and then elected Chairman of the Department of Physics in 1939, a position she held until her death. While teaching at Vassar, Wick gained international recognition for her research in the field of luminescence, publishing in scientific journals and securing grants for summer research at Harvard, Cambridge, and the Institute for Radium Research in Vienna. In 1939, Cornell University offered her access to a laboratory and materials, facilitating an experiment that Wick later wrote about in the Journal of the Optical Society of America, settling a scientific dispute about whether ice could emit light.

Throughout her career, Wick held membership in a number of scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Physical Society, and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. She also maintained a relationship with Wilson College, serving as a trustee from 1915 until her death, and receiving an honorary Doctorate of Science from the college in 1931. Though most of Wick’s activities centered around scientific study, she was also a member of the Poughkeepsie Equal Suffrage League.

Wick died in June of 1941 in the Poughkeepsie home she shared with her sister. She is buried in Butler, Pennsylvania.


“Frances Gertrude Wick
Faculty, Physics,” Suffrage at Simmons, accessed September 25, 2022,

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