Joseph H. Howey Physics Building

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Aerial photograph of the Joseph H. Howey Physics Building[1]

The Joseph H. Howey Physics building, named after Joseph H. Howey, is an academic building located on the west campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Joseph H. Howey was famous for being a director of Georgia Tech's School of Physics from 1935 to 1963. The building was completed in 1967, and is still in use. It was designed by Robert & Company, and built by Wood-Hopkins Construction Company. [2] The building main purpose is to houses physics classes, labs, and calculus classes. An interesting fact can be noticed about the building if looked from the top, as shown in picture, the middle section of the Joseph H. Howey Physics Building is in shape of the letter 'H', which can be attributed to Howey's last initial, H.


Joseph H. Howey

Joseph H. Howey in the 1956 Blueprint

Joseph H. Howey served the Director of the School of Physics at Georgia Tech for 28 years, between 1935 to 1963. Before coming to Georgia Tech, Howey received his BA from the College of Wooster in 1923, and in 1930, he received his PhD from Yale University. From 1929 to 1931, he served as a physicist in the research laboratory of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Corporation. [4] He returned to Yale as a instructor in 1931 and stayed until 1934. He then came to Georgia Institute of Technology as a professor of Physics.

Howey's Time at Tech

At Georgia Tech, Howey conducted research in the areas of magnetic thin films and crystal growth. He became the director of the School of Physics in 1935. Howey took a brief absence in 1945 to work at MIT Radiation Laboratory. In 1963, when Georgia Tech was looking to build a new physics building, he was asked to be appointed associate director, so he could devote as much time as possible in the design and construction of the new building. Between the 40s and his retirement in 1969 he devoted his time time at Georgia Tech to the development of the school of Physics at Georgia Tech and teaching physics itself. He was also a great classroom teacher, because he shows demonstrations during lectures. Howey was also a major contributor to the undergraduate laboratories. When he arrived at Georgia Tech, he began writing a set of laboratory instructions which were published in collaboration with E. T. Prosser in 1946. This manual served the sophomore physics laboratories for 20 years. Under Howey's 28 years of leadership, the School of Physics developed a graduate program, and the undergraduate program grew in size and stature to become one of the largest in the United States.

In his time, Joseph H. Howey was at Georgia Tech, he not only taught in the School of Physics, but he made the school one of the best in the nation. By 1955, the School of Physics at Georgia Tech had a great undergraduate program that was had a reputation with its students' acceptance into PhD programs throughout the country. By 1956, approval had been received for a PhD in physics at Georgia Tech. The PhD program owed much of its success to the strong undergraduate physics program under the leadership of Joseph Howey.

On September 17, 1976, the building which he played a key role in designing was dedicated and named the Joseph H. Howey physics building.[citation needed]


The Howey Physics building is 26,000 square feet of instructional space (classroom and laboratories) and 156,000 square feet of research laboratory space and adequate office space of faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and visitors. The building is comprised of two main sections. The eastern section houses four lecture halls, which are used for various classes such as calculus and introduction to computing. It is connected to the western section by two main corridors on the side and a courtyard in the middle. A part of the western section of the building extends upwards into a tower seven to eight stories high. The tower is home to housing offices, and graduate research laboratories.[citation needed]

Planning the Building

A big opportunity appeared in the latter years of Howey’s tenure as Director of the School of the Physics at Georgia Tech. At the time, the National Science Foundation was funding some new buildings across the United States. Georgia Tech submitted a proposal, written by Charles Braden, for a new physics building, which was design by Joseph H. Howey. One of the major concerns during the process was class size. Howey held many faculty meetings to tackle this concern. The question was whether the new building should have big amphitheaters or small classrooms. Both the majority of the faculty and Howey himself felt that classes taught by tenured faculty in large amphitheaters rather than a combination of tenured faculty and graduate assistants teaching in small classrooms would be best. The building had a very unique design. The large lecture amphitheaters would be separate module from the rest of the new physics building, and the middle section of the building would house small classrooms. The opposite end of the building, away from high traffic lecture amphitheaters, would hold research tower housing offices and graduate research laboratories. The building was designed in such a way to keep the students going to class in one of the amphitheaters away from the research areas. One of the most satisfying aspects of the new building, in Joseph Howey’s view, was the shop space. The shop space had a up to date metal working shop and a functional wood working shop. After thirty years, the shop facilities in the Joseph H. Howey Physics Building were changed to service the College of Sciences instead of exclusively servicing the physics department. The lecture amphitheaters have been utilized by the entire campus, including the math department and the College of Computing.[citation needed]


  1. Howey Physics Building. In "Georgia Tech Archives Digital Collections." Retrieved October 4, 2010 from
  2. Howey, Joseph H.. In "Georgia Tech Capital Planning & Space Mangement." Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  3. Joseph H. Howey Physics. In "Georgia Tech Archives." Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  4. Joseph H. Howey Physics. In "Georgia Tech Archives." Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
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