Carson Dunning Jeffries


An All Too Brief Memoir

LBNR Polarized Proton Target Team
(L-R) Owen Chamberlain, Gil Shapiro,
Claude Schultz and Carson Jeffries with
polarized proton target apparatus.

 From the UCB Campus News, November 1, 1995 (See also the more complete National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir by the same authors)
Carson D. Jeffries, emertus professor of physics, died Oct. 18 of a brain tumor at his home in Oakland. He was 73.

 Jeffries was known as a leading experimentalist who studied crystal structures and electrical properties of solids. His work became noted worldwide when he was the first to photograph and analyze electrons in the form of a liquid droplet inside a supercooled crystal wafer.

In 1983, Jeffries was elected to the National Academy of Sciences--considered one of the highest honors that can come to an American scientist. That same year, he also was elected to the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

 Jeffries joined Berkeley's physics department as an instructor in 1952, reaching the rank of professor in 1963. He was a faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory from 1978 through 1992.

 Jeffries wrote two books and won numerous awards and honors, including a Fulbright Research Scholar fellowship. He held the Adolph C. and Mary Sprague Miller Professorship in 1983-84.

 A man of varied interests, Jeffries was a passionate sculptor of kinetic art. His large wind sculptures of metal and high-tech fabric grace his Oakland garden, where a memorial service was held Oct. 29.

 Born in 1922 in Lake Charles, La., Jeffries earned an undergraduate degree in physics at Louisiana State University and a PhD from Stanford.

 He is survived by his wife, Olivia Eielson of Oakland; and a son and daughter.

From Physics Today, March 1996 (page 121-2) - See also the more complete National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir by the same authors)
Carson Dunning Jeffries, a distinguished and beloved member of the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley, died of a brain tumor on 18 October 1995 at the solar home that he built in the Oakland hills.

He was born on 20 March 1922 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and earned his BS degree in physics at Louisiana State University in 1943.  Soon thereafter he began wartime development work on radar countermeasures at Harvard University, where his talents caught the attention of Felix Bloch, who later persuaded him to become a graduate student of his at Stanford University.  Carson's PhD from Stanford, awarded in 1951, involved a precision measurement of the magnetic moment of the proton, obtained by comparing the proton nuclear resonance and orbital rotational frequencies.  In January 1952, after a year at the University of Zurich, he joined the Berkeley physics department, where he enjoyed a distinguished lifelong career.

Carson was one of those happy scientists who liked nothing more that working productively in his laboratory with his own hands.  He organized his projects with consummate skill and carried them out with incredible speed.  One would find him in his lab, day or night, almost oblivious to whatever else was going on in the world, often obtaining publishable results within a matter of weeks.    These skills and his pure joy in doing new physics enabled him to enter emerging fields with great effectiveness.  He did world-class research in nuclear magnetic resonance and electron spin resonance (1952-71), optical pumping and dynamic nuclear polarization in solids (1956-71), electron-hole liquids in semiconductors (1972-83), nonlinear dynamics and chaos in solids (1981-95) and nonlinear processes in high-temperature superconductors (1987-95).

Within these categories his work had many highlights.  He made the first experimental observation of the isotropic spin-spin exchange in metals.  About the same time as Anatole Abragam in Paris, He formulated means and methods for the dynamic polarization of nuclei in solids by the saturation of forbidden microwave transitions.  This procedure provided sufficient proton polarization to enable him, with Owen Chamberlain, to realize the large polarized targets required for nuclear-scattering experiments.  Carson was the first to demonstrate the existence of giant electron-hole droplets in semiconductors, a development that stunned the Russian theorists who first postulated the existence of droplets.  Earlier, in 1969, he had been the only American participant invited to the USSR for the 25-year jubilee conference at Kazan celebrating the discovery of paramagnetic electron resonance.

Carson enriched the campus by his extraordinary activities as a artist of professional standing.  Self-taught, he started with abstract painting and went on to kinetic sculpture.  He was one of the earliest practitioners of laser art.  He specialized in displays that were musical controlled, working with eminent composers such as John Cage.

His memorial is the lasting image in the minds of colleagues, former students, friends and family of an inspiring human being.

Erwin L. Hahn
Walter D. Knight
Alan M. Portis
John H. Reynolds

For other measures of Prof. Jeffries' diverse interests see

The Hummingbird Clue .
A Brief History of LASER Light Shows
Mills College and the First Laser Light Show, 1968–1969

This page was prepared and is maintained by R. Victor Jones
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Last updated April 20, 2010