Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith

1924 - 2017

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Obituary of Stephen Smith

On Saturday evening, June 10, Stephen Judson (Steve) Smith passed away peacefully at his family home in Boulder, CO, at the age of 92. Steve is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joyce; three sons: Douglas of Arlington, Virginia; Gordon of Boulder, CO; and Philip - also of Boulder, CO; and four grandchildren - Benjamin, Bonnie and Amy of San Rafael, CA; and Savannah of Boulder, CO; all of whom he loved deeply. Steve is preceded in death by his eldest son David, and second son Jeffrey.

Steve was born June 14, 1924 in Fairfield, IA. He spent his teenage years in Waukesha, WI. After graduating from Waukesha High School in 1942 and attending a semester of college, Steve enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he served as a navigator in the air transport command in both Europe and Asia during World War II.

At the end of the war, Steve received an honorable discharge as a first lieutenant, and moved to Kalamazoo, MI, where he attended Kalamazoo College, majoring in physics (B.A. 1949), and earning a varsity letter in cross country. It was in Kalamazoo where Steve met his future wife - Joyce Rickman. Joyce and Steve were married in 1951.

After college, Steve attended Harvard University, where he earned his M.A. in 1950 and Ph.D. in 1954, both in physics. Upon earning his Ph.D., he embarked on a life-long commitment to serving the public interest as a research scientist with the federal government. In 1954, Steve started his career as a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now NIST). He was Chief of the Atomic Physics section at NBS from 1960 to 1962. In 1962, he moved from Washington, DC, to Boulder, CO, with a team of ten scientists and support staff, whose mission was to found the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) on the CU Boulder campus. Steve was a JILA Fellow from 1962 through his retirement, and he served as Chairman of JILA in 1971-1972. In addition, he was Deputy Chief, and then Chief, of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division of NBS from 1966 to 1977. He also served as an Adjoint Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado from 1966 thru 1995.

In 1976, as a Department of Commerce Science and Technology Fellow, and again from 1989 to 1991 as a Visiting Scientist with the National Science Foundation, Steve served as the Program Officer for the Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics Division. Throughout his career, Steve served on a variety of editorial boards, including Metrologia; Advances in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics; and Physical Review-A. Steve was a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), and served in a variety of roles with the APS throughout his career, which culminated in his role as Chairman of the APS division of Electron and Atomic Physics in 1977.

Notable honors and awards include the Department of Commerce Gold Medal Group Award in 1970, and the Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award in 1978. The Humboldt award allowed Steve to pursue research as a visiting scientist on numerous occasions in both Munich and Kaiserslautern, Germany. By the end of his career, Steve had published 86 refereed journal articles on the subject of atomic, molecular, and optical physics.

On a personal note, Steve served as a Boy Scout leader for Troop 75. He enjoyed climbing and hiking – he was in charge of the Brainard Lake Cabin for the Colorado Mountain Club for a number of years. Steve was also a member of the First Congregational Church, serving in various leadership roles. He and Joyce enjoyed spending summers in Bay View, MI, playing croquet, and enjoying their grandchildren. Steve’s departure is a great loss and he will be missed.

Funeral Arrangements are being made by M.P. Murphy & Associates Funeral Directors. A memorial service will be held at First Congregational Church of Boulder on Saturday, August 5th, at 10 AM. 

Contributions
Donations “In memory of JILA fellow Stephen J. Smith” can be made to the JILA scholarship fund via the internet (https://giving.cu.edu/fund/jila-fund) or by mail (JILA Fund, c/o The CU Foundation, 1800 Grant Street, Denver, CO 80203).