RICHARD WILSON (1926 - 2018)

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WILSON--Richard "Dick",

Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics Emeritus at Harvard University, died on May 19, 2018, in Needham, MA. Born April 29, 1926, the son of Percy and Dorothy Kingston Wilson, Dick grew up in the Putney and Merton Park districts of London. He studied at Colet Court and St. Paul's Schools, evacuating to Crowthorne by bicycle during World War II. Dick earned his BA and DPhil in physics at Christ Church, Oxford. He completed post-doctoral work under Wolfgang "Pief" Panofsky at Stanford University. He married Andree Desiree DuMond. He joined Harvard University in 1955, where he remained until his retirement. Dick specialized in experimental particle physics, studying the nature of the smallest particles that constitute matter, as they collide at very high velocities. Dick's work focused on the structure of the nucleon using Harvard's cyclotron and other accelerators around the world. When Harvard's cyclotron became obsolete, he helped adapt it for the treatment of cancerous tumors. Dick authored over nine hundred scholarly articles and eight books. Dick will also be remembered for his student mentorship, his principled positions on humanitarian and environmental issues, and for his personal and professional connections across the globe. Dick was an early and visible supporter of Andrei Sakharov, the dissident Soviet physicist, and he believed that direct cultural and scientific contact was essential to prevent war. He visited Chernobyl after the nuclear accident, taking a TV film crew with him. Dick 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 remained devoted to Andree. They lived in Newton, MA, for over fifty years, where Andree created an extraordinary garden retreat. Dick enjoyed railroads and mountain hiking with their children. Dick loved to sing, recalling countless traditional British folk and music hall songs, and often accompanying himself on the concertina. Dick is survived by his brother Geoffrey, his sisters-in-law Alison Wilson and Adele DuMond Panofsky, and by his six children and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at the Harvard Faculty Club at 20 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 24, 2018, starting at 1:00pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to American Friends Service Committee Ingersoll Gender Center (, or the Newton Conservators Land Stewardship Fund (www.newtonconservators org). Condolences may be posted to the guestbook at

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Published in The New York Times on May 31, 2018
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