Akeley, Anna (b. 1904) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Name: Akeley, Anna (b. 1904)
Historical Note: Anna Akeley was born in Vienna, Austria in 1904. Akeley chose to focus on comparative religion at college, but also studied physics (specifically x-rays) at the request of her parents. Forced to leave college early due to personal reasons, Akeley began working as an editor for a Viennese printing firm. As the Nazis gained increasingly more political power, Akeley’s Jewish employer was forced to flee Austria. In his absence, she was in charge of liquidating the company’s assets. During this time, Edward Akeley, a Purdue physics graduate student, came to Austria and met Anna. Upon his second visit to Austria, they decided to get married and she came back to the United States with him, arriving in Lafayette in 1942. Shortly after coming to Purdue, Anna learned that she would be teaching physics due to the wartime personnel shortage. Although she was very excited, Anna had been away from the formal study of physics for nearly twenty years and had never been taught physics in English. Despite these initial setbacks, Anna went on to teach numerous courses throughout her 29 years in the Purdue Physics Department. She was elected by her students to receive a Best Instructor Award in 1966, “In Recognition of Outstanding Works Being Done in the Classroom.” Always referring to herself as a “simple physics teacher,” Anna retired with tenure in 1971. She was the only member of the Physics Department without a physics degree ever to do so.
Note Author: Emma Meyer