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Overbeck, C. J. (Clarence Jacob), 1901-1997



Clarence J. Overbeck was born in Holland, Indiana on March 14, 1901. He signed his first teaching contract with the Indiana Public Schools when he was 18 years old, beginning a long and distinguished career in science education. He received his A.B. and M.A. in Physics in 1925 and 1926, respectively, from Indiana University, and completed his Ph.D. in Physics at Northwestern University in 1931. His doctoral project was an experimental study of phenomena related to the sputtering of metals.

Prior to joining the faculty of Northwestern's Physics Department, Overbeck held teaching positions at Indiana University (Assistant Physics Professor, 1925-1926) and at La Salle-Peru Junior College of Illinois (1926-1927). At Northwestern, Overbeck was successively instructor (1927), assistant professor (1931), associate professor (1939) and full professor (1946). Overbeck taught basic physics courses as well as advanced classes in physical optics, electricity, and sound and acoustics. He also served as Chairman of the Bachelor of Arts (later General Studies) Committee from 1948 to 1958. Overbeck held visiting professorships at Stanford University in 1948 and 1960. During grant-funded visiting professorships at the University of Ghana in 1962 and the University of the West Indies 1963-1964, Overbeck advised the institutions on modernizing and expanding their physics programs.

Always dedicated to the teaching of science, Overbeck was very involved in the American Association of Physics Teachers from its inception (founded by fellow Northwestern physicist Paul E. Klopsteg in 1931), serving on its governing board from 1943-1959 and receiving a Distinguished Service Award in 1964. He was also a member of the Illinois State Association of Physics Teachers (President, 1940-41; President of the Chicago Chapter, 1953-54). As a long-time member of the American Institute of Physics, Overbeck served on the Advisory Committee on Education. His focus on teaching was reflected in his inventions of demonstration and laboratory apparatus. His writings included books on basic science and physics, and contributions to the teaching series Selective Experiments in Physics. He was a regular contributor to scholarly journals and a participant at conferences.

Overbeck married Harriot West (1903-1982), a psychiatric social worker, in 1928; they had two children. After Overbeck's retirement from Northwestern University in 1969, the couple moved to Waynesville, North Carolina. Clarence Overbeck died on August 30, 1997.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Clarence J. Overbeck (1901-1997) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/21/6
Abstract Clarence J. Overbeck was successively instructor (1927), assistant professor (1931), associate professor (1939) and full professor (1946) of physics at Northwestern University. His papers fill one and one half boxes, spanning the years 1933 to 1997. The bulk of the records consist of biographical materials, speeches, and lectures from his many years as a physics professor. Much additional biographical material is supplied by two autobiographies. The published proceedings from conferences on...
Dates: 1933-1997