E. Brooks Shera was born on Aug. 28, 1935 in Oxford, Ohio in an ambulance en route to the hospital. He always loved to say that it was really a hearse doing double duty as an ambulance. He died on March 16, 2013 at the Kingston Residence in Santa Fe.
Brooks received his bachelor's degree from Case Western Reserve in 1956, his master's degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 1958 and his doctorate in nuclear physics from Case Western University in 1963. After a postdoctoral appointment at Argonne National Laboratory, Brooks joined the Physics Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1964. He carried out the first experiments that used slow neutrons to study the Mossbauer effect and pioneered the coincidence method to deduce nuclear energy levels from the gamma radiation that follows neutron capture. When intense beams of muons became available from the Laboratory's LAMPF accelerator, he led an international collaboration that made uniquely precise measurements of nuclear sizes and shapes by studying the spectra of x rays from muonic atoms. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1982. Later in his career Brooks became interested in the contributions that physics could make to molecular biology. This interest led to work on techniques for identifying proteins and eventually to development of methods for highspeed DNA sequencing. He held several patents and received awards for his work in DNA sequencing.
After Brooks retired from the Laboratory, he continued his broad technical interest. As an example, Brooks designed a GPS-controlled frequency standard. The goal was to produce an inexpensive, but highly accurate, frequency standard by synchronizing a local crystal (or Rb) oscillator to the GPS atomic clocks. The project began in the Spring of 1997 and a prototype was designed and operating by late Fall. Several months of experimentation and testing resulted in a design that produces a frequency accuracy better than one part in 10 to the 11. Brooks eventually published the design of his frequency standard in the July '98 issue of the amateur radio journal, QST. Since the initial publication hundreds of these frequency standards have been built on several continents - Brooks personally supplied over 300 programmed microprocessors to individual builders. Many more have been assembled using data Brooks made available on the world wide web. Brooks was also generous with his time providing support to builders via e-mail and phone.
Brooks' interests in retirement were not limited to science and technology. He loved to travel, go hiking and camping, and do photography. He spent many hours researching and writing about the Shera family history and genealogy. One of his loves was creating micaceous pots and he leaves a legacy of beautiful pots for his family and friends to use and enjoy.
Brooks had a keen intellect and an interest in life, a wry wit and a quirky and irreverent sense of humor. He loved a good argument. He was a self-described cat person. Brooks was a member of the American Physical Society, the Sierra Club and was a radio amateur (W5OJM).
He is survived by his wife Karen Stoll. They were married on Oct. 1, 1988 in Los Alamos. After retirement in 1993, Brooks and Karen moved to Crazy Rabbit Road, south of Santa Fe. He is also survived by his son Christopher Shera and granddaughter Sarita Shera of Belmont, Mass.; his daughter Katherine Shera and her children Jena Tegeler and Benjamin Bonnet of Cambridge, Mass.; his stepson Scott Hiromoto, wife Diana Oviedo and their children Saphire Heck and Gael Hiromoto of Los Angeles, Calif.; his sister Mary Helen Baum of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; and the mother of his children Nancy Shera. He was preceded in death by his parents Jesse Hauk Shera and Helen Bickham Shera; his daughter-in-law Mordena Babich and his brother-in-law William Baum.
The family would like to thank the staff of Kingston Residence of Santa for their loving and conscientious care for Brooks during his final months and also VistaCare Hospice for their care and concern for both Brooks and Karen. Memorials may be made to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the Sierra Club, or any organization of the donor's choice.
Brooks loved a party with good conversation, food and drink, and there will be a celebration of his life this summer at a date to be announced.
Published in Los Alamos Monitor from Mar. 23 to Mar. 25, 2013