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Richard Wilson

1926 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Richard Wilson Obituary
Richard Dick Wilson, Mallinckrodt, Professor of Physics Emeritus at Harvard University, died on May 19, 2018, in Needham, MA. Dick will be remembered for his scientific work, student mentorship, principled humanitarian and environmental stands, and interdisciplinary connections across the globe. Dick was also a railway enthusiast, morris dancer, concertina player, world traveler and hiker. Born April 29, 1926, in Putney, England, the son of Percy and Dorothy Kingston Wilson, Dick grew up in the Putney and Merton Park districts of London. He studied at Londons Colet Court and St. Pauls Schools, evacuating to Crowthorne by bicycle during World War II. Dick earned his BA and DPhil at Christ Church, Oxford. He was a Guggenheim Fellow for post-doctoral work in the U.S. at Rochester University and then Stanford University, with Wolfgang Pief Panofsky. While at Stanford Dick met Andre Dsire DuMond, marrying her after a brief courtship. In 1952, they moved to Oxford University for Dicks research lecturer position, and in 1955 to Cambridge, MA, for Dicks faculty position at Harvard. Dick specialized in experimental particle physics, studying the nature of the smallest particles that constitute matter, as they collide at very high velocities. Dick led the upgrade of Harvards proton cyclotron to 160 MeV in order to study nucleon-nucleon interactions. With Harvard and MIT colleagues, Dick designed, constructed, and used the Cambridge Electron Accelerator (CEA) 6 GeV synchrotron, which, from 1962 on, further probed nucleonic structure. Dick was involved in constructing and using the new Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, frequently commuting there from Harvard, to maintain close contact with students and research. At Fermilab, Dick continued the study of nucleonic structure with high-energy muon beams. When Harvards cyclotron became obsolete for particle research, Dick helped adapt it for the treatment of cancerous tumors. He also studied electron-positron interactions with the CLEO collaboration at the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR). Finally, Dick joined a research group using the intense polarized beam of the new Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) in Virginia. Dick went often to the USSR and Russia, believing that direct cultural and scientific contact was essential to prevent war. After the exile of dissident Soviet physicists, Dick boycotted USSR conferences, and was an early and visible supporter of Andrei Sakharov. Dick studied nuclear power safety and environmental carcinogens, such as asbestos. He visited Chernobyl after the nuclear accident, taking a PBS film crew with him. He studied arsenic in drinking water, and was especially proud of starting a program to provide safe arsenic-free water from a village-well in Bangladesh. Dick authored 935 scholarly papers and eight books. Dick remained devoted to Andre. They lived in Newton, MA for over 50 years, where Andre created an extraordinary garden retreat. They loved hiking and climbing mountains, often with their children. Dick loved to sing, recalling countless traditional British folk and music hall songs, and often accompanying himself on the concertina. His Harvard Physics Laboratory photo showed him dancing the Fools Jig with the Headington Quarry Morris Men in Oxford. Dick is survived by his brother Geoffrey, his sisters-in-law Alison Wilson and Adle Panofsky, and by his six children, A. Christopher (Rita McMahon), Michael (Lisa Greenleaf), Nicholas (Carol Anne Freeman), Elaine (Brad Farnsworth), Andr A. (Mary Frances Bond), Peter (Julie Whitmore); and three grandchildren, Benjamin Farns worth, Irene Farnsworth (Matt Solimano) and Tyrone Whitmore-Wilson. He was predeceased by his wife Andre Dsire, and his brothers Arthur and Laurence. He is fondly remembered by devoted caregiver Mrs. Bethune Labeach, extended family, and his many students, colleagues, and friends. A memorial service will be held at the Harvard Faculty Club at 20 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at 1:00 PM, followed by a reception. Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be made in Dick's honor to American Friends Service Committee (www. afsc.org), Ingersoll Gender Center (ingersollgender center.org), or to the Newton Conservators Land Stewardship Fund (www.newtonconservators.org). Condolences may be posted to the guestbook at www.lehmanreen.com. Lehman Reen & McNamara Funeral Home, 1.617.782.1000, Brighton, MA.
Published in The Newton Tab from May 31 to June 13, 2018
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