Clinton Joseph Davisson, was born on 22 October 1881 as son of the craftsman Joseph Davisson and teacher, Mary Calvert in Bloomington, Illinois. He began in September 1902, following the completion of high school in Bloomington, studying mathematics and physics at the University of Chicago, however, the study had to stop after a year due to financial reasons and took a job with a telephone company in Bloomington. On the recommendation of Millikan, whom he had met during his year in Chicago, he received in January 1904 as an assistant at Purdue University, June 1904 to August 1904 he was able to continue his studies in Chicago. In September 1904 he was re-appointed on the recommendation of Millikan, on a part-time job as a physics instructor at Princeton University, which he held until 1910. During his free time, he attended lectures at Francis magic, Edwin Plimpton Adams, James Owen Willans Richardson and jeans. During the summer semesters, he repeatedly visited the lectures in Chicago, where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1908. In 1910/11 he received a scholarship for physics at Princeton University and received his PhD in 1911 under Professor Richardson of the thermal emission of positive ions of the alkaline earth metal salts. He was from September 1911 to April 1917 Instructor Physics Department at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, in June 1917, he took a job in the engineering department of the Western Electric Company ( later Bell Telephone Laboratories) in New York for the duration of the war City on after he had previously been rejected by the U.S. Army. After the war, he refused an assistant professor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and remained at Western Electric. He was retired in 1946 at Bell Telephone Laboratories after 29 years of service and was from 1947 to 1949 Visiting Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Davisson married in 1911 Charlotte Sara Richardson, the sister of his PhD supervisor Professor Richardson, and had four children, three sons and a daughter. He died on 1 February 1958 in Charlottesville.
Davisson was awarded the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physics for the experimental confirmation of the predicted from de Broglie matter waves that had him in 1926 along with Lester Germer succeeded by detecting the diffraction of electrons by crystals. LEED has become an important analytical tool in surface chemistry. The second half of the prize went to George Paget Thomson.
- Comstock Prize in Physics, National Academy of Sciences, 1928
- Elliott Cresson Medal, Franklin Institute, 1931
- Hughes Medal, Royal Society, 1935
- Nobel Prize in Physics, 1937
- Alumni Medal of the University of Chicago, 1941
- Honorary doctorates from Purdue University, Princeton University, the University of Lyon and Colby College