Oliver Craig Wells

Obituary
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    - Paul Lyons
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1931 - 2013
Dr. Oliver C. Wells, a pioneer in Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) research and Emeritus Researcher at the IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights NY, died on February 20 at the age of 82.

Oliver Craig Wells was born in London, England on February 14, 1931 to George Philip Wells and Marjorie Craig Wells, respectively son and secretary to H.G. Wells. After going to Marlborough College and teaching radio technology as sergeant in the British Army, he attended Cambridge University to study mathematics and electrical engineering for a BA and MA, then electrical engineering for a PhD in the group of Professor (later Sir) Charles Oatley. For his doctoral thesis research, "Construction of a Scanning Electron Microscope and its application to the Study of Fibers", he built the second SEM at Cambridge, believed to be the only functioning SEM worldwide at the time of completion.

His contributions to the SEM during the 1950s included the invention of the scintillator backscattered detector ("Robinson detector"), the demonstration of atomic number contrast, stereo imaging, and methods to image non-conducting specimens including the use of positive ion beams.

In 1958, he married Pamela Hubbard, and they moved to the United States in 1959. He worked first at Westinghouse, where he built an advanced SEM for semiconductor studies and microfabrication and demonstrated electron beam-induced current imaging. In 1965 he joined IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he ordered the second commercial SEM shipped to the USA and then developed low loss imaging for high resolution imaging; electron beam testing of devices, and advanced backscattered electron imaging. Dr. Wells authored the widely acclaimed Scanning Electron Microscopy (McGrawHill) in 1974, and thereafter taught many short courses on the SEM. He published over 140 papers at conferences and in professional journals, and was president of the Microbeam Analysis Society in 1980. In 1993 he retired and continued at the Watson Lab as Emeritus Research Staff Member until 2011 when the program was discontinued. He was named a fellow of the Electron Microscopy Society, a fellow of the Royal Microscopy Society (U.K.), and received the Sir Charles Oatley Prize in 2012. He was known for his assiduous care in citing the contributions of prior workers and of technologists, and expended considerable efforts to nominate colleagues for professional prizes when community recognition of their work was overdue.

During his college years, he became an avid cave explorer and cave diver. The oxygen rebreathing apparatus was partly Royal Navy surplus, and partly homemade. He was the first to dive the submerged passages known as "sumps 4 and 5" in Swildon's Hole, England, and went furthest in the underground river of nearby Wookey Hole in the 1950s.

He was involved in the Yorktown Volunteer Ambulance Corps as EMT volunteer in the ambulance and in the Peekskill Hospital ER. He also worked many years as a part time ski instructor at Hunter Mountain.

He is survived by his wife, Pamela, children John Craig, James and Julia and three grandchildren.
Published on NYTimes.com from May 3 to May 4, 2013