Knowledge is the golden ladder over which we climb to heaven;

knowledge is the light which illuminates our path through this life

and leads to a future life of everlasting glory.

From Immigrant to Inventor, Michael Idvorsky Pupin


Michael (Mihajlo) Pupin was born on 9th October 1854 in Idvor. During that time a little village Idvor was a part of the Austrian Empire district called Banat military border. Today Idvor is an integral part of the Banat and the Republic of Serbia in the province of Vojvodina.

Mihajlo Pupin was a famous American scientist, inventor and professor of Serbian origin.

As a little child, Michael Pupin showed his intellectual talents and his parents sent him to school firstly in Panchevo (Pančevo) then in Prague. After the death of his father he left for America in 1874. In 1879 he was able to enroll in Columbia College. His intelectual tenacity became apparent very early on and his desire to progress. After completing college in 1883 he continued his education at Cambridge until 1885. Eager for further improvement as the first winner of Tindal scholarship he went to Berlin to learn by the side of Hermann von Helmholtz. Berlin was the epicenter of the experimental physics of that time. Michael Pupin received his doctorate in 1889.

Michael Pupin returned to New York at Columbia College where he and his colleague Francis Crocker founded the first chair of electrical engineering in the United States. Before returning to the United States in 1888, he married Sarah Catherine Johnson (1859-1896) with whom he had a daughter Varvara (Barbara, 1889-1962). Since 1896 till 1929 Michael Pupin spent his working life at the Columbia College Columbia University.

Michael Pupin was one of the founders of the American Physical Society in 1899 (APS was established on May 20th in Pupin’s laboratory at Columbia University). He also was one of the first members of the American Mathematical Society.

Michael Pupin was a member of the first council for the establishment of NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, 1915) from which later (in 1958) formed the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Michael Pupin is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for his autobiography From Immigrant to Inventor. He published 3 more books: Thermodynamics of Reversible Cycles in Gases and Saturated Vapors (1894), The New Reformation; from Physical to Spiritual Realities (1927), Romance of the Machine (1930).

He is a holder of 18 recognized honorary doctorates.

He received 7 valuable awards: Eliot Kresson Medal of Franklin Institute (1902), Herbert award of French academy (1916), Edison’s medal of American Institute of Electrical Engineers (1919), Honorable medal of American Radio Institute (1924), Honorable medal of Institute of Social Sciences (1924), Prize George Washington from Western Association of Engineers (1928), Medal John Fritz from four American National Association Engineers Electromechanics (1931).

He received 2 valuable medals: White eagle – first degree from Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929) and White lion – first degree from Czechoslovak Republic (1929).

Michael Pupin was a president of the AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1925-26), IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers, 1917), The New York Academy of Sciences (1916), President of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (1925-26) and University Club (1930-31).

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), the American Mathematical  Society,  American Physical Society,  American Philosophical Society,  French Academy of Sciences,  Serbian Academy of Sciences, Honorary member of German Electrical Society and the Honorary member of American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Mihajlo Pupin had patented 35 of his discoveries in the United States and including their analogs in ten different countries which resulted in 133 patents. His most prominent discoveries are Pupin coil, modulator frequencies and electric resonator. After the announcement of Roentgen X ray  he found a solution for recording via X ray usage. Also the discovery of  secondary H-beams was one of his accomplishments.

The building of the Institute of Physics at Columbia University which was built in 1927 still bears the name Pupin Hall. Mihajlo Pupin was the founder of the first Laboratory of Physics which was also the first one of that kind in America and at Columbia University bears the name Pupin Laboratory. In his honor the Columbia University named their most prestigious award Pupinova award in 1958.

A small Lunar impact crater in the eastern part of the Mare Imbrium was named in his honor also.

Mihajlo Pupin died in New York City in 1935 and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.


Autor: dr Dragoljub A. Cucich

Picture 1. Left: On postage stamp; Right: Pupin was pictured on the old 50 million Yougoslav dinar banknote.

Picture 2. First Meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) 23.04.1915.

Seated from left to right: Dr. William Durand, Stanford University, California. Dr. S.W. Stratton, Director, Bureau of Standards. Brig.Gen. George P. Scriven, Chief Signal Officer, War Dept. Dr. C.F. Marvin, Chief, United States Weather Bureau Dr. Michael I Pupin, Columbia University, New York. Standing: Holden C. Richardson, Naval Instructor. Dr. John F. Hayford, Northwestern University, Illinois. Capt. Mark L. Bristol, Director of Naval Aeronautics. Lt. Col. Samuel Reber, Signal Corps. Charge, Aviation Section Also present at the First Meeting: Dr. Joseph S. Ames, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Hon. B. R. Newton, Asst. Secretary of Treasury.

Picture 3. Left: Michael Pupin greets Orville Wright (5.03.1927); Right: With Albert Einstein (15.03.1933).



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