Earl Frederick Zwicker (1926 - 2022)


B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison
M.S., Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology
Ph.D., Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology - The Nature of Sliding Friction and Wear in Lithium Fluoride


1959 - 1962
Instructor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology
1962 - 1966
Assistant Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology
1966 - 1982
Associate Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology
1982 - 1992
Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology


Earl F. Zwicker was born on May 23, 1926 in Appleton, Wisconsin. He attended Appleton High School and then earned a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1949.

Zwicker came to IIT as a graduate student in the autumn of 1949 and earned his M.S. (1953) and Ph.D. (1959) in physics. Immediately upon graduation with his doctorate, Zwicker was joined the physics faculty where he served for 33 years as Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. He retired in 1992 as an Emeritus Professor and returned to Appleton, Wisconsin where he died at the age of 95 on March 7, 2022.

While at Illinois Tech, Zwicker carried out research in the fields of biological, chemical, and solid state physics. However, Zwicker's most enduring contributions have been to changing the way the world thinks about physics education. He did away with the old curriculum of books and monotony and replaced it with what is now known as phenomenological physics, allowing students to observe phenomena in the classroom rather than only reading about them in their textbooks.

Zwicker was also instrumental in establishing the Illinois State Physics Project which brought together high school and college physics teachers on a monthly basis to share best practices in physics instruction.

Along with physics alumnus Roy Coleman, Zwicker started the Chicago Regional Bridge Building Contest in 1975 and the International Bridge Building Contest four years later. He continued to organize both contests until his retirement in 1992.

For his outstanding advancements in the area of physics education, Zwicker was awarded the Robert A. Millikan Medal in 1984 and elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1991.

Notable Publications