Edward Melkonian (1920-1991)
Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Edward Melkonian was an American physicist. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt on June 29, 1920, to parents of Armenian heritage who had fled persecution in Turkey.
In 1921, the family moved to the United States, settling in West New York, New Jersey. A gifted student, Melkonian received a scholarship to attend Columbia University in 1937. He graduated from Columbia with a bachelor's degree in physics in 1940 and earned his master's degree the following year. Melkonian studied quantum mechanics under Enrico Fermi.
Melkonian's pursuit of his Ph.D. was interrupted by the U.S. entry into World War II and the launch of the Manhattan Project. During the war, his research focused on uranium isotope separation. He also worked at the Manhattan Project site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
After the end of World War II, he returned to graduate studies at Columbia where he received the Ph.D. degree in 1949. The subject of his research for the doctorate was the precise determination of the cross section for scattering of slow neutrons by free protons. To this day, the accuracy of that measurement has not been surpassed despite introduction of rapidly improving techniques in the field of neutron physics. Together with subsequent measurements of the neutron-proton capture cross section in the epithermal energy range and of the scattering cross sections at higher energies he made with his students, it remains among the most important parameters that determine the fundamental interaction between neutrons and protons.