William Brownfield Fowler Remembered
October 13, 2015 (PO40). Dr. William Brownfield Fowler passed away peacefully in St. Charles, Illinois, on May 3, 2015, aged 91. He was an internationally recognized expert in the fields of high-energy particle physics, superconducting magnets, cryogenic bubble chambers, and diffusion cloud chambers.
Born on March 22, 1924 in Owensboro, KY, he graduated from Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky, after which he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during WW-II and was trained as a radio operator. He obtained a B.A. in physics from University of Kentucky in Lexington in 1947. In 1951, he received a Ph.D. in physics from the Washington University, St. Louis, MO, after researching cosmic rays at the Climax Mine in Colorado. Next, he went to the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Upton, Long Island, NY, to perform post-doctoral research that used diffusion cloud chambers to discover "strange" particles at BNLs Cosmotron. He then went to the University of California, Berkeley, as an assistant professor, 1955 - 1959. At Berkeley he and others used newly developed bubble chamber technology to discover and study new "strange"particles, such as Cascade- baryons. After that academic stint he took a staff position at BNL where he remained until 1969. While at BNL, he and others constructed the 80 inch, cryogenic-hydrogen bubble chamber, which was eventually used to discover the Omega- particle in 1963. In 1969 he took a position at the newly opened National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), in Batavia, Illinois, where he remained until he retired in 2002 at the age of 78. He further maintained scientific connection with the Lab until February 2015.
Bill Fowler is perhaps best known at Fermilab for his work leading the construction of the National Accelerator Laboratory 15-foot bubble chamber, the largest in the world. He was also a leader in the effort to build the Tevatron and in the development of its superconducting magnets.
He was an enthusiastic photographer who loved the outdoors. His wildflower photographs were beautiful reminders of hikes in the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, or the Appalachian mountains. He also enjoyed traveling, backpacking, bicycling, canoeing, birdwatching, and skiing. He was a skilled woodworker, an avid bridge player, loved the arts, and regularly attended performances by the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera. He also enjoyed watching plays, and regularly went to thespian festivals around the country and in Canada. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth Fowler, daughters and grandchildren.
(Remembrance after New York Times obituary, May 21-22, 2015, and Cryogenic Society of America “Cold Facts”, courtesy Laurie Huget, Exec. Director)