Dr. Ernest Ising, 1900-1998

Dr. Ernest IsingDr. Ernest Ising was Professor of Physics at Bradley from 1948-1976 and Professor Emeritus until his death.  Dr. Ising is recognized in the worldwide scientific community for his development of the Ising Model.  He and his wife, Dr. Jane Ehmer Ising, established the Ising Scholarship for physics students at Bradley University in 1985.

Born in Cologne, Germany in 1900, Dr. Ising received his Ph.D. in physics at Hamburg in 1924. At the suggestion of his professor, Dr. Wilhelm Lenz,  he began to investigate a model of ferromagnetism introduced by Lenz in 1920.  In his doctoral thesis he studied the special case of a linear chain of magnetic moments which are only able to take two positions, up and down, and which are coupled by interactions between nearest neighbors.  This model came to be known as the famous Ising Model.

Jane and Ernst Ising fled Germany in 1939 when Hitler destroyed a Jewish boarding school in Caputh where Ernest was headmaster and teacher. They moved to Luxembourg and planned to emigrate to the United States as soon as possible. When Hitler invaded Luxembourg in 1940 most Jews were deported, but because Jane was not Jewish, they were not deported; however Ernest was forced to work at menial jobs, struggling to survive until they could emigrate.

The Isings with their young son, Tom, came to America in 1947. Dr. Ising taught physics and mathematics at the State Teachers College in Minot, North Dakota. From Minot he came to Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where he taught physics until his retirement in 1976.

While his students remember his teaching and elaborate classroom demonstrations, he is remembered around the world for the Ising model, a widely used standard model of statistical physics. Every year about 800 papers which apply this model are published. These papers range from problems regarding neural networks, protein folding, biological membranes, social imitation, and social impact in human societies and frustration.  There are more than 39,000 references to the Ising Model on the world wide web.  The English version of his doctoral thesis can be found at http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/anglica/Chronology/20thC/Ising/isi_intr.html

Many students have benefitted from the Ising Scholarship since 1985. The newly renovated conference room in the Physics Department is named the Ising Conference Room in memory of Ernest Ising and his contributions to the department. A replica of his doctorate dissertation and a translated copy are on permanent display in the Ising conference room. Mrs. Ising celebrated her 109th birthday on February 2, 2011.  She resides at Independence Village in Peoria.