He received his Ph. D in physics from Harvard University in 1923, then went on to study at Cambridge University and again at Harvard. He served from 1930 to 1966 as a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then went to the University of Florida where he served from 1966 to 1976 as research professor in physics and chemistry. Slater is recognized for calculating functions which describe atomic orbitals. The functions became known as Slater-type orbitals (STOs).