Fred Allison1

b. 4 July 1882, d. 2 August 1974
FatherRobert Clark Allison2 b. 23 Feb 1828, d. 31 May 1902
MotherRebecca Jane Clark2 b. 18 Jun 1844, d. 1923
Birth4 Jul 1882 Fred Allison was born on 4 Jul 1882 in Washington County, Virginia.1 
Childhood  He was the youngest of 6 children and the favorite of his older sisters. Fred worked in the local drug store in Glade Spring as a teenager and played baseball and marbles with friends and relatives.1 
Education Fred attended Emory and Henry College, which offered a truly classical curriculum at the turn of the century. Mathematics, English literature and religion were strongly emphasised as were languages. Fred learned Latin, Greek, French and German.

The college was just 4 or 5 miles down the railroad tracks from Glade Spring, allowing Fred to walk, or hop a slow moving freight train to and from the campus. He graduated in 1904 with highest honors.1 
  Following graduation Fred worked briefly as a freight agent for the Santa Fe Railroad Company at a small settlement in rural Kansas. But Fred found that he missed southwest Virginia and soon returned to Emory and Henry College as a math/English instructor. During his years there he developed an interest in physics and astronomy, spending his summers at such institutions as John Hopkins University and Columbia University.1 
Marriage24 Aug 1915 He married Elizabeth Harriet Kelly, daughter of William Keys Kelly and Annie Ryburn Smyth, on 24 Aug 1915 in Washington County, Virginia. She had been his student at Emory and Henry.1 
Education1922  While still teaching, Fred continued his education, spending summers at the University of Virginia Department of Physics in pursuit of a masters and then a doctorate in physics. He earned his Ph.D. in 1922 and then moved to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in Auburn (later Auburn University) where he assumed the position of Head of the Department of Physics.1 
  During his years at Auburn Dr. Allison contributed much to the scientific community; in the field of magneto-optics he gained international recognition. He made several important discoveries, some of which sparked debate among the scientific community at the time. Some researchers, possibly due to limitations of their own equipment or experience, were not able to reproduce his results. As a result he did not always receive the credit due him. Dr. Allison served as the Dean of the Graduate School at API but was perhaps best remembered as an excellent teacher and a genuinely good person. He loved to play tennis and was an avid bee keeper, sharing honey with family and friends. 
  When Fred reached mandatory retirement age at Auburn in 1953 he and Elizabeth lived briefly in Bangkok, Thailand before returning to their roots in southwest Virginia. There Fred taught for a few years at Emory and Henry College. But they missed Alabama and when the opportunity to develop a new physics department at Huntingdon College in Montgomery presented itself, they again traveled south. Dr. Allison retired for the second time in 1969. 
Death2 Aug 1974 Fred died on 2 Aug 1974 in Auburn at age 92.1 
Burial He was buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn, Alabama.1 

Related Links and Images:

To read an interesting article on Dr. Allison's contributions to physics visit this website:


Elizabeth Harriet Kelly b. 11 Sep 1891, d. 9 Apr 1990
  • Elizabeth Harriet Allison1
  • Dr. Fred Allison
ChartsDescendants of Robert Clark and Martha Harvie
Last Edited28 May 2009


  1. [S2281] Fred Allison Jr., Fred Allison 1882-1974 Scientist, Educator.
  2. [S574] Robert Allison household, 1900 U.S. cens., Washington Co., Virginia, pop. sched., Glade Spring District, ED 108, sheet 4B, dwelling 71, family 74, viewed online at, April 2003, image 8 and 9 of 70. Robert Allison, 72, married 33 yrs, b. Feb. 1828, land surveyor; Rebecca, wife, 55, married 33 yrs, b. June 1844, mother of 6 children, all living; Jennie, dau, 27, sgl, b. Feb. 1873, milliner; Fred, son, 17, b. Jul 1882; Mary B. Clark, sister-in-law, 41, Nov. 185_, dressmaker; all b. VA, all parents b. VA.