Tell Me Why The Sky Is So Blue Today

By cjohnson | April 15, 2006 9:57 am

john brodie That title is the first line from a poem that is quoted in this newspaper article (Rutland Herald) on physicist John Brodie, who died accidentally in January, at age 36. John wrote the poem to his father. John was such a sweet person, so softly spoken and good-natured.

I found the Rutland Herald article on Not Even Wrong. There was also an obituary which appeared in the Washington Post and in the Baltimore Sun. The Rutland Herald article takes the oppoortunity to go into more detail on John’s life, and the tragic circumstances of his death. An extract about his education:

Brodie had the look of an All-American — blue eyes, blond hair, a tall, toned body and a wide smile — but he was no “big man on campus.” Personable yet humble, he won acceptance to medical school, only to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Cornell in, respectively, 1991 and 1992.

Taking a year off to tour Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe with nothing but a backpack, the son of Quaker parents turned to Eastern religions and shoulder-length hair. But soon he was back to the books, earning a doctorate in theoretical physics from Princeton University in 1998.

And on his family background:

For Brodie, science was a family tradition. His late grandfather, Herbert Hartley, was an organic chemist who helped develop the polyurethane industry and was honored by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for designing the antitank hand grenade used in World War II.

His father, Harry Brodie, is a retired organic chemist who developed the first estrogen-biosynthesis inhibitors now used to treat breast cancer.

His mother, Angela Hartley Brodie, is a University of Maryland researcher who last year became the first woman to receive the $250,000 international Charles F. Kettering Prize for “the most outstanding recent contribution to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.”

On John’s research:

He went on to study the theory at Stanford University and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., and published more than a dozen research papers in peer-reviewed journals. (The Journal of High Energy Physics, for example, ran his article on “D-branes in Massive IIA and Solitons in Chern-Simons Theory” in 2001.)

I had a lot of fun talking physics with him, when I saw him at Stanford, and later at Perimeter, and I got a lot from those conversations. A sad, sad loss for the field.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia, Personal

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