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Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street, Troy, New York 12180-3590 USA

(518) 276-6310
Fax: (518) 276-6680

Wayne G. Roberge
Robert Resnick

Professor Emeritus of Physics

Alumni Hall of Fame Page:

Robert Resnick is professor emeritus at Rensselaer and the former Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Science Education, 1974-93. Together with his co-author David Halliday, he revolutionized physics education with their now famous textbook on general physics, still one of the most highly regarded texts in the field today.

He is author or co-author of seven physics textbooks, which appear in 15 editions and more than 47 languages.

Resnick introduced Rensselaer’s interdisciplinary science curriculum in 1973 and was its chair for 15 years. He was awarded the American Association of Physics Teachers’ highest honor, the Oersted Medal, in 1975, and served as its president, 1986-90. A Distinguished Service Citation issued in 1967 by the association said, “Few physicists have had greater or more direct influence on undergraduate physics students than has Robert Resnick.”

Rensselaer named its Robert Resnick Center for Physics Education in his honor.

So You Want to Write a Textbook?

Each year for the past seventy years the American Association of Physics Teachers has given an award, the Oersted Medal, to a physicist who has made major contributions to the teaching of physics. In 1974 the award went to Robert Resnick, now Professor Emeritus of Physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The award cited many of his achievements, including his use of limericks in teaching. Chiefly, it recognized one of his many physics textbooks, namely the introductory primer he co-authored with David Halliday. First published in 1960, that textbook — in later editions — is still in use (2010) throughout the world.

Resnick's response to receiving the Oersted Medal, titled: “So You Want to Write a Textbook”, became much in demand.

Click here to view him giving the speech, 25 years later, as a colloquium talk at The University of Texas in Austin.

Resnick on Einstein

"In 1979, there were celebrations amongst scientists of the 100th anniversary of Einsteins' birth. Conferences were held in cities around the world, including, for example, Jerusalem and Paris. In Washington, the National Academy of Science sponsored such a conference. Giving talks there eight scientists including several Nobel Prize winners, some associates of Einstein and a few relevant educators. I was one and I felt overnatched.

However, at the end, the planning committee chose just two papers to be published and mine was one. That paper, reprinted in 1980, is included here."

- Robert Resnick

Read "Misconceptions about Einstein: His work and his views".

Physicist and Limericist

"It was back in the late '50s — I had been at RPI for only a few years — when I made the mistake of reciting a relevant limerick in class. That started it all.

Students kept telling me of fraternity members who were "experts" in limericks, and soon I was being challenged to face them off. I resisted. After all, what would the administration say — not to mention parents — about a profesor who set such an example for his students? There was a thin line to be hoed, for

A limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So selmon are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical."


See the exam

- Robert Resnick

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