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Roger W. Boom

Roger W. Boom

March 10, 1923 to August 8, 2018
Date of photo unknown

August 29, 2018 (PO66).  Roger Wright Boom died on August 8, 2018, in La Jolla, California, following a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 95 years old at the time of his death.

Roger was born in 1923 to Frank and Gladys Boom, in Bladen, Nebraska. He attended grade school and high school in Bladen and then attended the University of Nebraska, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1944, Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Sigma Xi. He was then a research associate in the Harvard Underwater Sound Research Lab. He joined the Navy in 1945 and taught electronics at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

He continued his education after WWII at University of Minnesota (M.S.-1950). In 1951 he married LaVerne Backdahl. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics at UCLA in 1958. Along with Profs. Kenneth R Mackenzie, Byron T. Wright, other graduate students and technicians, Roger helped bring up the new UCLA 49 inch cyclotron. He then did post-doctoral research at the University of Bonn for two years before joining Oak Ridge National Lab in 1960. In 1963 he returned to California to work for Atomics International where he received the prestigious IR100 award for his work in cryogenics and superconductivity.

In 1968 Roger joined the faculty of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There he continued his research in cryogenics and superconductivity and established the Applied Superconductivity Center which is now located at Florida State University in Tallahassee. His projects included early work in Superconductive Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES), a development of his and his longtime collaborator and friend, Professor Harold Peterson. Numerous researchers and leaders in the field today were doctoral candidates and postdocs in this program. He retired and became Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 1993. In July 1993, the Cryogenic Engineering Conference presented Boom with the Samuel C. Collins Award for outstanding contributions to cryogenic technology.

Roger was awarded 12 patents, primarily in the design of systems for cryogenic superconductivity.

Recognizing his accomplishments and his keen interest in nurturing new talent in the field, the Cryogenic Society of America established the Roger W. Boom Award in 2008. It is awarded biannually to a young professional who “shows promise for making significant contributions to the fields of cryogenic engineering and applied superconductivity.” The spirit of the R.W. Boom Award is to recognize young people for their pursuit of excellence, demonstration of high standards and clear communications.

During his tenure at UW he received the Byron Bird Award from the School of Engineering in 1986.

Roger was an avid golfer and was a member of Blackhawk Country Club while living in Madison. He continued to play golf in retirement, and would often frustrate younger players on the course with his capacity to chip accurately and usually leave only a short putt.

Roger’s love for the quest of knowledge was indeed tangible, including support for family members’ education, and the establishment of a scholarship fund through the University of Wisconsin Foundation for both men and women pursuing advanced degrees in Engineering. He and LaVerne were members of the Bascom Hill Society.

As Roger lost ground to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, he was fortunate and very appreciative to have the assistance of his grandniece Jennifer (McKenzie) Mannino living nearby as he progressed from independent living and playing golf to becoming a resident in the dementia care unit at White Sands of La Jolla. Her frequent visits, car trips, attention, and companionship helped him enjoy as much as possible those years, as he remained sociable, affable, and never faltered before a good meal with good company.

Roger died without issue, and was preceded in death by his wife LaVerne Boom in 2001; his parents, Frank and Gladys Boom; his sister, Lurye McKenzie, and his brother-in-law and high school physics teacher, Ronald J. McKenzie, Jr. He is survived by nephews, Ronald (Margot) McKenzie III, and Rodney (Paula) McKenzie, as well as nieces, Roine (Chas) Thomsen, and Marilyn Calhoun, and nephew Gary Ripley, as well as grandnieces and grandnephews.

Interment was August 13, 2018, at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego, CA, beside his beloved wife, LaVerne.

Contributors: Steve van Sciver, Peter Lee, David Larbalestier, Bruce Strauss, and Rodney McKenzie