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Celebrating Jonathan, Colleagues and Collaborations

During a July 24 celebration of SLAC Director Emeritus Jonathan Dorfan's 32-year SLAC career, physics leaders from around the globe reviewed the accomplishments of decades of successful collaborations—from the days of Mark I and Mark II detectors through the evolution of SLAC into a leading photon science, particle physics and astrophysics laboratory. A symposium in Panofsky Auditorium was followed by cake, ice cream and reminiscences on the SLAC Green and a dinner "roast."

Morning introductions included letters of congratulations from well-wishers who could not attend, among them U.S. Representative Mike Honda, current SLAC Director Persis Drell and DOE Associate Director for Science for High Energy Physics Dennis Kovar. Posters celebrating such milestones as the Mark II detector, PEP-II collider, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and the Linac Coherent Light Source heralded the day's stories.

Jonathan's brother and BaBar collaborator David Dorfan launched the presentations with childhood photos and lively descriptions of a sporty young Jonathan—the South African ping-pong champion—who showed early signs of the amiability, determination and "uncanny, cat-like quickness" that would make him an adept experimenter and administrator. "He was always very sweet natured," said the elder of the Dorfan brothers. "He had a way of discussing a task in a manner that made you want to do it." Dorfan joked that his sport-focused younger brother lacked focus early-on "except where a ball was concerned." But then, "I heard rumors he was starting to do very well at math." Facility with mathematics foreshadowed successful graduate study in experimental particle physics at UC Irvine, and both doctoral and postdoctoral work at SLAC in the 1970's. From that time, Jonathan and SLAC have moved forward together.

(Photo - 'Let's Celebrate' sheet cake)
(Click images for larger versions.)

(Photo - John Seeman presents PEP-II slides in Panofsky Auditorium) John Seeman presents a slide showing Jonathan installing the "last" bolt in the PEP-II high-energy ring system.

From Z to B

The Mark II replaced the magnetic detector in the SPEAR storage ring in 1977. Jonathan helped build its liquid argon counters, which would later help elucidate decay modes of the tau lepton. "He was a very hands-on experimenter," said Nobel laureate Martin Perl, who was the head of Group E at the time. Building his expertise from bolts to theory, Jonathan excelled to become spokesperson for the Mark II in its next location, on the PEP storage ring, in 1980. "That's how fast he moved," Perl said. "From knowing nothing to expert in six years."

Jonathan saw the 1800-ton Mark II through upgrades and another move, this time to serve the Stanford Linear Collider. Conquering excess summer heat and unexpected muon sprays, the SLC team spotted the landmark first decay of a Z0 boson, spinning off into a quark–anti-quark pair, in 1989. As co-spokesperson, Jonathan helped dig into the details to confirm the result before announcing it to the press the next day. "This was typical of Jonathan," said Indiana University physicist Richard Van Kooten, who was one of his graduate students at the time, "to be involved at every level."  Between pranks with their large inflatable Godzilla mascot, the Mark II team went on to demonstrate multiple Z boson decay modes, Van Kooten noted, and further showed that there were fewer than four light neutrino generations in the universe.

Notes on a dinner napkin dated January 15, 1989—written by Jonathan and captured in a photo presented by Assistant Director and head of the Accelerator Systems division John Seeman—outlined experiments that would help to shape the extraordinarily successful B Factory. The B Factory included the PEP-II positron–electron collider and BaBar detector. Seeman described Jonathan, as project director, promoting the proposed PEP-II collider to funders with the image of two gunfighters facing off, poised for a shootout with matter and anti-matter bullets. PEP-II went ahead; construction finished within cost and on schedule. On completion of its high-energy ring system in 1997, "two or three people got to put in the last vacuum bolt," Seeman said. "Jonathan was the first." PEP-II would achieve a record luminosity, and still holds world records for electron and positron current stored.

"What we celebrate today is much more about what can be than it is about my personal achievements. It is more about the irreplaceable value of support, mentorship and friendship than it is about one person's career."
―Jonathan Dorfan

(Photo - 
			Jonathan Dorfan greets well-wishers at the ice cream and cake social on the SLAC green.) Jonathan Dorfan greets well-wishers on the SLAC Green.

PEP-II construction was a collaboration among SLAC and Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley labs. BaBar involved a larger international research effort, centered on the like-named detector at the collision site of the PEP-II ring. Its goal: to measure the decay rates of B0 and anti-B0 ("B-bar") mesons, to help explain why matter pervades the universe.

"[This project] tested the standard model in new and unique ways," said California Institute of Technology Professor David Hitlin, who was BaBar spokesman from 1994–2000 and among the project's originators. "I don't think any of us expected it would go this far or this deep." The collaboration of more than 500 physicists from 10 nations delivered beyond expectations, Hitlin noted, providing not only deep understanding of CP violation in B mesons, but new subatomic particles and decays. The results appear in more than 300 scientific publications so far.

As the B Factory progressed, Jonathan grew as well from his position as head of the B Factory to also lead BaBar construction, while serving as associate director and, starting in 1999, director of SLAC. That same year, Albrecht Wagner became director general of Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY). The two worked together on the International Committee for Future Accelerators, or ICFA, on the difficult choice of accelerator technology for the International Linear Collider. When the summer 2004 decision went in favor of "cold" technology, rather than the "warm" approach espoused by SLAC, Jonathan was chair of ICFA. He announced the decision "with impressive dignity and conviction," Wagner said. Proponents of "warm" and "cold" approaches joined forces to move the project forward, in what Wagner called "an enormous collaborative spirit, which has stayed with us ever since."

Special congratulations were extended in reading of a congressional proclamation from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, presented to Jonathan at the beginning of afternoon talks on the SLAC Green.

X-Rays to Gamma Bursts

Similar vision and collaboration led SLAC into new territory. "Jonathan's tenure as SLAC director saw development of key enabling scientific infrastructure that positions SLAC to evolve into a multi-program laboratory," said Associate Director and Photon Science Keith Hodgson. Among many successful projects to explore the properties of matter with high-power X-rays was the Sub-Picosecond Pulse Source, an international collaboration among universities and national labs. The SPPS was SLAC's first experience with short X-ray pulses, Hodgson said, and provided the foundations for the Linac Coherent Light Source. The LCLS will soon probe atomic-scale events with ultrafast X-ray pulses of unprecedented brilliance. 

SLAC's vision expanded further, from X-rays to the full spectrum, with a joint venture between SLAC and Stanford's departments of physics and astrophysics. The targets: the tracks of black holes and supernovae, and the mysteries of dark matter and energy. The Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, or KIPAC, had Jonathan's enthusiastic support. "I think that that early embrace of the concept, his encouragement to be bold and to shoot for the very best Institute we could imagine, and his vision that astrophysics could play a key role in the future development of SLAC were really key behind-the scenes contributions," wrote Stanford physicist Roger Romani, in a letter to the director of Particle Physics and Astrophysics, Steven Kahn.

Kahn noted that Jonathan's support is not given lightly. "Jonathan is a scientist first and a lab director second," Kahn said. Kahn presented his proposal for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope four or five times before Jonathan was convinced. "He would not unambiguously endorse LSST as a project, even if its acceptance was good for SLAC, until he understood personally that this was the right experiment to back." LSST construction is now underway, and gathering collaborators. "I’m just glad that Jonathan eventually 'saw the light' about LSST," Kahn joked. 

(Photo - John Hennessy) Stanford President John Hennessy responds to audience banter. Hennessey offered a lively congratulations during the evening dinner celebration.

(Photo - Andrea Chan) Andrea Chan thanks Jonathan on behalf of SLAC support staff during Thursday's afternoon session. A transcript of her talk is available to all.

Kahn spoke of Jonathan's key role in arranging the generous gifts that launched KIPAC. In typical style, Jonathan showed an interest in broad picture as well as the details, including the design of the Kavli building that houses the institute. "What impresses me, a lot," said KIPAC Director Roger Blandford, "is how close this highly successful building is to [Jonathan's] original conception. I think the same can be said for the science." KIPAC's recent ventures include collaboration on the science analyses for the Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope, which has already logged 12 gamma bursts during test operations in orbit.

Person to Person

"Jonathan, you've got a lot to be proud of," said former SLAC director and Nobel laureate Burton Richter. Richter lauded SLAC's advances, while acknowledging recent funding difficulties.

But this is not the first time SLAC has navigated rocky times. The lab faced an uncertain future some years ago, recalled LCLS team member Andrea Chan, when Jonathan asked her to join the research and development team for PEP-II. She remembered asking him whether taking that job might be a futile move. He confided that he had received but turned down other job offers, that PEP-II was the best way to secure the lab. "PEP-II and BaBar brought in a decade of stable high-energy physics at the lab," Chan said. Remembering this, she noted, helps to put current issues into perspective.

"As you all know, humanity evolved out of Africa. Jonathan also came out of Africa, and, I think, represents probably the highest stage of evolution of humanity at the moment."

―Neil Calder

(Photo - Neil Calder) Neil Calder "roasts" Jonathan Dorfan at the celebration dinner Thursday evening.

Throughout good times and bad, Chan said, Jonathan has been foremost a listener, always able to locate in his notebook the comments and suggestions from his staff. "Valuing the contributions of others was a key ingredient in all the successful collaborations that Jonathan led," she said. 

"This is the most outstanding part, for me, of Jonathan," said former SLAC communications director Neil Calder, "his inherent kindness, his tremendous sense of integrity, his humility, and his real desire to do good for us all."

"The last 40 years have been a journey filled with the excitement of scientific inquisitiveness, the joy of study, and shared visions that spanned the gamut from local activities to those that were truly global. The most enduring outcome of my journey has surrounded me today. It surrounds me tonight. Namely, the privilege of your friendship, your comradeship, and the memories of experiences that we have shared. I am deeply grateful for that privilege. A greater gift I cannot imagine. And my heartfelt thanks go to each and every one of you."
―Jonathan Dorfan, July 24, 2008

(Photo - Jonathan and Rene Dorfan) Jonathan and Renée Dorfan share in the celebration.

Shawne Workman, SLAC Today, July 30, 2008