Dr. Sherwood Parker (1932 - 2018)

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  • "Dear Sherwood, it was a privilege to meet you and an honour..."
    - Gian-Franco Dalla Betta
  • "The Free Speech Movement Archives remembers FSM supporter..."
  • "So much to remember about Sherwood, my second cousin and a..."
    - Joanne Lafler
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1932 - 2018 Dr. Sherwood Parker, pioneer in experimental physics, social activist, and great romantic, died on March 9, 2018 in Oakland, California from complications due to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Highlights of his career include the development of the first scientific silicon readout integrated circuit (Microplex), the first monolithic charged particle sensors, and the first 3D silicon detectors used to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson particle. Dr. Parker also developed detectors for use in digital mammography and produced over 60 publications and held seven patents. He entered the physics department at the University of California at Berkeley upon graduation from University of Illinois. Dr. Parker studied under Dr. Burton Moyer, Dr. Edward Teller and Nobel Laureates Dr. Luis W. Alvarez, Dr. Owen Chamberlain, and Dr. Ed McMillan. Inspired by his family of Russian immigrants and Holocaust survivors, Dr. Parker fought for human rights throughout his life. At the University of Chicago as an assistant professor, he was one of only two faculty members who supported then-student Bernie Sanders' successful attempt to desegregate student housing in 1962. Dr. Parker continued to defy segregation in the 1960s with the Freedom Riders. At Berkeley, he became a passionate participant in the Free Speech Movement. Dr. Parker counted Mario Savio as a personal friend. In 1971, Dr. Vincent Peterson recruited Dr. Parker to join "The Hawaii Group" at the University of Hawaii. A life- long collaboration began with many leading research scientists and laboratories around the world including CERN, FERMI and SLAC. At SLAC a meeting with Bernard Hymans of CERN and Terry Walker of Stanford resulted in teaming up to work on what became the "Microplex Chip" of which Dr. Parker is one of the patent holders. In 1995, inspired by his native Chicago skyline, Dr. Parker conceived of a three- dimensional detector using electrodes that extend like perpendicular skyscrapers in a silicon block. His concept sparked the development of the "Planar Process." This technology remains the "state-of-the-art" in radiation detectors and was used in the Atlas detector at CERN to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson particle. Dr. Parker continued working on a faster and more accurate detector he named "Flash." In 2015 when receiving the Glenn Knoll Radiation Instrumentation Outstanding Achievement Award from the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, Dr. Parker said, "Though diagnosed with ALS, I have had time to continue my work . . . with much-loved colleagues, including Cinzia Da Via, Giancarlo Franco, and Chris Kenney, among others." He was a life-long lover of fast trains, vast unobstructed views, as well as his close circle of beloved friends, family and colleagues. He was a passionate photographer, a bike enthusiast and climbed the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. Dr. Parker loved to travel, packing a briefcase full of aeronautical charts so he could map the flight and take pictures. When no longer able to travel, Dr. Parker kept informed on world events and enjoyed talking with people from around the world, especially those he met at Bayside Park in Emeryville. Prone to the more than occasional shaggy-dog story, Dr. Parker held onto his sense of humor and belief that scientific thinking could solve most problems. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley California or Target ALS.

Published in The New York Times on Mar. 25, 2018
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