Honoring the Life and Work of Isabel Tipton

College of Arts & Sciencesartsciweb

Tipton-sidebar“My mother was Dr. Isabel H. Tipton, who was a Professor in the UT Physics Department from 1948 to 1972. She was born Isabel Hanson on June 17, 1909, in Monroe, Georgia. Her mother was a primary school teacher and her father, a high school math teacher and principal. She had two younger brothers. Her father chose to use the Montessori method to educate his two eldest children. He taught my mother through the third grade. I have always credited him with the fact that my mother used her mind more deeply and thoroughly than anyone else I have known. When my mother graduated from Girls’ High School in Atlanta in 1925 she went to the University of Georgia in Athens. She wanted to be a chemist but the chemistry department would have nothing to do with a woman. The physics department, on the other hand, accepted her with open arms. In 1929 she received her BS and in 1930 her MS from the University of Georgia. She went on to Duke University for her continuing graduate work where she met my father, Samuel Ridley Tipton, a zoologist, and received her PhD in 1934. She and my father were married in 1935 in the throes of the Depression. My father managed to find a job, but my mother decided that she would be a mother and proceeded to have me and my three brothers. She returned to work 10 years later as a physicist, joining my father at the University of Tennessee where she garnered much acclaim. She was an excellent teacher and her research is still relevant. She published 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals and her papers have received 2500+ citations (25 in 2014 and 10 in 2015, reflecting that her work still has an impact today). In 1962 she became the coach for the College Bowl, a national television program that pitted school teams of four scholars against each other challenging them to answer difficult questions in all fields. The UT team consisted of Joe Gorman, Anne Dempster, David Rubin, and Harold Wimberly. She was selected for the UT Alumni Association’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 1966. After her retirement UT honored her by dedicating a Graduate Study Room in the UT Library to her.

I have set up a scholarship in her name at the University of Tennessee to help students in the Physics Department, primarily women. I do hope that you will join me with contributions in the name of Dr. Isabel Hanson Tipton.” –contributed by Jennifer Tipton, an award-winning lighting director in New York.

To contribute to the scholarship honoring Isabel H. Tipton, contact Don Eisenberg at (865) 974-2504 or don@utfi.org.

This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of CrossSections, the newsletter of the UT Department of Physics.