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career, earning after graduation a master's degree in physics and becoming an instructor in 1889, followed by assistant professor in 1892, all in the Cornell physics department. After this last appointment he spent a year in Berlin studying with Max Planck, among others. He remained a friend of Planck's to the time of Planck's death, sending relief packages to the family following the end of World War II. The extant notes he took on Planck's thermodynamics course are beautifully done. He became a full professor in 1903 and head of the department in 1919, succeeding Edward L. Nichols. He held that position until his retirement in 1935, when he became "E. Merritt, emeritus," a title he had long looked forward to.
In 1893 Nichols, with Merritt as co-editor, founded The Physical Review, recognized today as the world's premier journal of physics. They were joined shortly by their colleague, Frederick Bedell. The three ran the journal until it was taken over by the American Physical Society in 1913, Bedell continuing as managing editor for another decade. Not only did they manage the journal but were major contributors, along with other Cornellians, then past and then present. They wrote scientific articles, short communications, notes of interest, book reviews, and obituaries. Merritt, like his colleagues, reviewed many books on physics-from Dolbear's Matter, Ether, and Motion (a treatise not widely referred to these days) to one of his last, Boltzmann's Populare Schrifter, a collection of his talks and magazine articles, including some on thermodynamics. In his review Merritt was critical of the inclusion of "Reise einer deutschen Professors in Eldorado" on the author's visit in the summer of 1904 for a course of lectures he gave at the University of California. In his last contribution to the journal, Merritt (1938) extolled in a memorial for Edward Leamington Nichols, then recently deceased, the accomplishments and attributes of his