SLAC Today

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Tribute to Wolfgang Panofsky

Physicist Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, known affectionately to most as "Pief," spent more than five decades at Stanford in enthusiastic pursuit of some of the greatest scientific and political issues of his times. He died of a heart attack at his home in Los Altos on Monday. He was 88.

Panofsky, director emeritus of SLAC, had a profound impact on elementary particle physics as a researcher, a machine builder and an administrator of basic research. In parallel with that science career, his interest in arms control and international security policy became a lifelong passion, played out time and again in Washington. He was a high-level adviser beginning with the Eisenhower administration, fighting to shape science policy, improve international collaboration and maintain the free flow of knowledge across international boundaries at a time when the world had become ideologically polarized.

A photo album of his life would open to snapshots of the Panofsky family leaving pre-war Germany to escape persecution, Panofsky as a young man driving Albert Einstein (a friend of his father) while at Princeton, Panofsky in a B-29 bomber 10,000 feet above the world's first nuclear explosion in New Mexico.

The next pages would reveal him overseeing the construction of SLAC, working with the great figures of postwar physics, huddling with colleagues in the nuclear arms control movement. Photos from Russia and China would show a smiling Panofsky establishing seminal international collaborations.  Read more...

Farewell to a Giant

The news that W.K.H. (Pief) Panofsky had died last night has struck me, and the world community, with a sense of severe loss. Somehow this remarkable leader and contributor to society seemed destined to be with us indefinitely. His absence leaves a gaping hole, unfillable by those of us remaining. Pief created, and led for 23 years, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a generator of physical insights of which the scientific world remains in awe. He was tireless in pursuit of national security, participating in the Manhattan Project, and leading our nation in pursuit of arms control. He made himself available to all of us in need of his guidance, from the White House to those of us seeking more mundane assistance. He affected for the better all who sought his advice. We have lost a great personality, a giant among his peers. We remain grateful for having had the chance to live and work with him.

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