friedlander photo

Michael W. Friedlander

Professor Emeritus

Office Contact Information

251 Compton

Physics Department, CB 1105
Washington University
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA

(314) 935-6279
(314) 935-6219

Research Interests

Cosmic Rays and Infrared Astronomy Professor Friedlander's research concerns cosmic rays and related infrared and gamma ray astronomy. His earlier experimental work related to the the properties of the 'strange' particles produced in the collisions of high energy cosmic ray particles. This included the discovery of the beta decay of the kaon and the first precision measurement of the mass of the lambda-zero hyperon. Friedlander has been interested in finding a common ground among these apparently separate topics as well as radio astronomy from which it is known that many celestial objects display non-thermal spectra indicating the presence of high energy electrons. He is investigating the effects of cosmic ray particles in dust and gas surrounding Eta Carinae, an extremely luminous object that may well also be a source of energetic particles.

Friedlander is also interested in the interface between science and society and in the structure of science. He has taught courses in the history of science and in the contrast between science and pseudoscience, and has written two books in this area.

He has been a national vice-president and council member of the American Association of University Professors. He has served as a consultant to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He has been active in faculty affairs, serving on numerous committees, including terms as chairman of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Faculty Council and chairman of the University Senate Council. He was, for two years, chairman of the Department of Music at Washington University.

Selected Recent Publications

  • Nova Dust Nucleation, Ap.J. 407, 714, (1993) with D.A.Johnson and J.I.Katz
  • Eta Carinae, Ap.J., 408 , 230, (1993), with J. Borgwald
  • The Implications of Gamma-Ray Lines Observed from the Orion Complex Ap.J. Lett, 444 , L.29 (1995) with R. Cowsik
  • The Cahokia Sun-Circles, The Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol.88 , pp. 78-90 (2007)

Review Articles

  • Astronomy : survey article for the Encyclopedia Britannica (1989, 1995)
  • Cosmic Rays : survey article for Encyclopedia Britannica (1991)
  • Cosmic Rays : Mercury , 19, 130-140 (1990)


Books by Michael Friedlander

  • Thin Cosmic Rain (Harvard University Press, 2000; alternate selection, Astronomy Book Club). This is a broad survey of cosmic ray research at the Scientific American level and includes descriptions of cosmic ray products such as carbon 14 and tracks in meteorites.
  • Astronomy - From Stonehenge to Quasars (Prentice-Hall, 1985)- a freshman-level text.
  • Conduct of Science (Prentice-Hall, 1972) - a survey of the working of modern science - publications, research funding, social responsibilities.
  • At the Fringes of Science (Westview Press, 1995) - a description of the workings of science, reviewing the reception given to novel ideas, whether mainline or crackpot. How does Science work? - as seen by a working scientist.
  • At the Fringes of Science (Translated - Japanese) (Westview Press, 1995) - a description of the workings of science, reviewing the reception given to novel ideas, whether mainline or crackpot. How does Science work? - as seen by a working scientist.
  • Cosmic Rays (Harvard University Press,1989; Library of Science selection) - now completely updated in A Thin Cosmic Rain.



1955 Ph.D. (Physics); University of Bristol, England
1950 M.Sc. (Physics; First Class Honours); University of Cape Town
1948 B.Sc. in Physics and Applied Mathematics; University of Cape Town


Professional History

1967- Professor of Physics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
1984-1986 Interim Chairman; Department of Music Washington University
1956-1967 Assistant Professor, Associate Professor of Physics Washington University
1951-1952 Junior Lecturer in Physics, University of Cape Town


Honors and Awards

1962-1963 Guggenheim Fellow and Visiting Professor; Imperial College, London
1975 Alumni Award for Teaching Washington University
1993 Kemper Award for Innovative Teaching Washington University
1994 University College Award for Teaching Washington University
1999 The Michael Friedlander Scholarship endowed by gift of anonymous donor, October 1999 for an undergraduate student at Washington University