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James Warwick

"Have I talked to you about Jesus?" He had just been diagnosed with Parkinson's, and he was living far away in a new town. Hearing this question, we feared the wheels were coming off his wagon. Then he launched into a detailed explanation (with equations!) of his estimated magnitude of the electro-magnetic emissions associated with neural activity and the frequencies and radii at which these emissions might induce sympathetic activity in another brain. This, he reasoned, might account for the biblical claims that Jesus could sense the thoughts of others. James Walter Warwick died in Fresno, Calif., June 20. Jim was a scientist in the deepest sense of the word. He was a Harvard-educated radio astronomer (Ph.D., 1951) and served on the University of Colorado faculty from 1955 to 1989. As principal investigator for the Planetary Radio Astronomy instrument on the Voyager spacecraft, he held a ringside seat for flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. He was curious, analytical, careful and keenly interested in understanding the world around him. He communicated his ideas with precision and style. He could also be critical, stubborn and thin-skinned. Working at the intersection of different disciplines and advocating for more unified approaches had both rewards and costs. He understood that science could be a bitter business, but he never became cynical about the science itself, and his love of learning and enthusiastic sharing of that knowledge sustained him throughout his life. Jim was also a true musician. An accomplished clarinetist who played in his unit band in World War II, he began cello lessons at age 39 and within years became a valued member of the Boulder Philharmonic. Sunday mornings, he hurried off to play chamber music at a local church, and his children remember musicians gathering for quartets and trios in his living room. Although he was not proud of his gruff voice, he could sing at sight smoothly and with deep feeling. The other great sustaining force in his life was his family. Jim took the long view on his personal relationships, and his sense of family extended seamlessly across three marriages, two sets of children, one set of stepchildren and a host of close friends. He was generous with all of them and reveled in their presence. Not good with cards, phone calls or holidays, his gift instead was a genuine and beaming countenance around his friends and family. There was nothing he loved more than just being with them (though ice cream and molasses cookies tiled with chilled butter were clearly a close second). How do you summarize a long life well lived? Legacies are fleeting; Jim's most celebrated scientific achievement is quite literally receding into the interstellar void, while his once close networks of colleagues, fellow musicians and even family are likewise undone by time and space. What remains, and the only things that really matter, are the personal memories we each cherish and the comfort that we are better for having known him. Services will be held July 11, in Fresno, Calif. A Boulder memorial will be held at the Chautauqua Community House at 2 p.m. Aug. 20. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences department, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo. 80301 or the donor's favorite charity.


Published in The Boulder Daily Camera from July 3 to July 6, 2013
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