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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007


Dick Diamond: ‘Gammasphere’ Pioneer, Dies at 83

Dick Diamond, nuclear chemist and senior staff scientist emeritus with Berkeley Lab, passed away on Sept. 14 after a brief illness. He was 83. Colleagues say that he and his Lab research partner, Frank Stephens, pioneered and then revolutionized the field of high-spin physics with their work building the High-Energy Resolution Array (HERA) and, later, contributing to “Gammasphere” at the 88-inch cyclotron.

In 1981, Diamond and Stephens won the Bonner Prize of the American Physical Society
“for their contributions to the understanding of high-spin states of nuclei. Their studies of multiple Coulomb excitations with heavy ions, of multiple gamma ray cascades, and of the effects of the Coriolis coupling in rotational spectra are important ingredients in our understanding of rapidly rotating nuclei.”

Nuclear scientist Augusto Macchiavelli, reflecting upon that honor, said, “This summarizes well that work, but I believe it cannot fully convey the profound impact  that it had in all of nuclear structure physics, particularly in the area of gamma-ray spectroscopy.” He recalled the duo being “the center of attention” in the field, attracting scientists from around the world to work and talk with them.

Physicist Arthur Poskanzer recalled that Diamond’s early career was in ion exchange chemistry, and that Diamond was probably the only person to chair two completely different Gordon Research Conferences.  Poskanzer adds, “I took a class from him at Harvard in 1953. He was a great person and a great scientist.”

At the 1987 Gordon Conference, Stephens presented their concept for Gammasphere, to be the world’s most powerful instrument for detecting gamma rays. On Dec. 1, 1995, the $20 million, 110-detector Gammasphere was dedicated. It continues its work today at Argonne National Lab.

In 1993, Diamond received the Seaborg Award in Nuclear Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, being one of the few recipients of major prizes from both the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society.

“Dick had a long and distinguished career (37 years) at the Laboratory,” said James Symons, Division Director for Nuclear Science. “He was also one of the nicest men one could ever hope to meet, and will be much missed by all who knew him.”

Born on Jan. 7, 1924 in Los Angeles, Diamond received his B.S. in physics and chemistry from UCLA in 1947 and his PhD in nuclear chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1951, under Berkeley Lab Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg. He was an instructor in chemistry at Harvard from 1951-54 and an Assistant Professor at Cornell from 1954-58 before returning to California to work at Berkeley Lab. Although he officially retired from the Lab in 1995, he continued to make important contributions to the nuclear structure program. In particular, he worked with David Ward and Wladek Swiatecki on the Jacobi shape transition in nuclei.

Cornelius (Con) Beausang, professor of physics at the University of Richmond, wrote, “I was his postdoc back in 1988-90, and I can honestly say he was one of the true gentlemen of the world, a superb scientist, with great insight, and tons of patience for a new young postdoc.”

In 1966, Diamond was a member of the U.S. physics delegation to Russia. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1966-67, which he spent at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. He received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1977 to work at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He was also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

“Dick was a wonderful person” writes Claire Schuck, physicist from Orsay, France. “Many of us will remember his outstanding contributions to nuclear chemistry and spectroscopy over more than a half-century, and his broad experimental and theoretical knowledge of a field of physics in which most nuclear physicists can only specialize in a few topics.”

Diamond was an avid tennis player, swimmer and folk dancer. His son, Rick Diamond, deputy group leader of the Energy Performance of Buildings Group in the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, recalls that his father enjoyed backpacking in the Sierra with Lab colleagues Andy Sessler, Earl Hyde, and Poskanzer. “We never did learn who did the cooking, and if they only talked physics the whole time, but he always enjoyed these trips,” Rick Diamond said.

Diamond is survived by his brother, Philip, of Mill Valley; his former wife, Marian Cleeves Diamond, of Berkeley; and his four children: Catherine Diamond of Taipei, Taiwan, Rick and Jeff Diamond of Berkeley, and Ann Diamond of Mazama, WA.

A memorial service will be scheduled in a few months. Contributions can be made to the Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay and the Sierra Club.






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