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John D Fox Superconducting Accelerator Laboratory


John David Fox

Since its inception in 1958, Florida State University’s nuclear physics program has established an international reputation for excellence in research and education. Now, to acknowledge the contributions of a longtime FSU faculty member who was instrumental in its development, the nuclear accelerator now bears his name.

The John D. Fox Superconducting Accelerator Laboratory was officially named on Monday, March 5, to honor its namesake, a professor of nuclear physics who taught and performed groundbreaking nuclear research at FSU for 36 years until his retirement in 1996. Sadly, Fox was unable to visit the newly named facility — he died on Sunday, March 11, following an extended illness.

"John Fox showed us through his own long hours spent in the lab that excellent physics takes hard work," said Kirby W. Kemper, FSU’s vice president for Research and a longtime colleague of Fox’s in the department of physics. "He was a fantastic role model for three generations of FSU physicists."

Shortly after then-Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins established FSU’s program in nuclear physics in 1958, Fox joined the faculty in 1960 and went on to play a key role in building up the accelerator laboratory into a position of worldwide renown. In particular, his collaboration with Robson on isobaric analog states put the accelerator lab on the world map of nuclear physics. Their work led to an important international conference, held at FSU in 1966, whose proceedings still are quoted today.

LINAC Dedication in 1986.
Left to right:
  1. Dr. Doug Pewitt, Deputy Director, Office of Energy Research, U.S. Department of Energy (and an FSU Ph.D. graduate)
  2. Prof. John Fox
  3. Dr. Ben Mottleson, Nobel Laureate from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and the keynote speaker at the dedication
  4. Prof. Steve Edwards, FSU Dean of Faculties
  5. LeRoy Collins, former governor of Florida who secured initial funding for the nuclear laboratory
  6. Dr. Bernie Sliger, President of FSU

In the late 1970s, Fox became director of FSU’s nuclear physics laboratory and led the effort to secure funding for and construct a state-of-the-art superconducting linear accelerator, or LINAC, at the lab. At the time of its construction, it was just the second superconducting linear accelerator in the world.

"It is safe to say that the LINAC would not have happened without both the hard work that John put into it and the high esteem in which he was held in the world nuclear physics community," said Sam Tabor, a professor of physics at FSU and current director of the accelerator laboratory.

Former Gov. Collins officiated at the dedication of the superconducting accelerator, located in what is now known as the LeRoy Collins Research Laboratory, in 1986. The new facility gave a tremendous boost to the capabilities of the nuclear physics laboratory and led to a considerable amount of innovative research, which has helped the program achieve a ranking of 13th in the nation in nuclear physics.

"John was one of a group of young faculty who produced a world-class nuclear physics program at Florida State University in the very short period of five years beginning in 1960," said Kemper. "His enthusiasm for physics research attracted an outstanding group of graduate students who are now among today’s nuclear physics leaders in the United States. In addition, he mentored two generations of faculty members who have continued the excellence in physics research at Florida State that he established."

"All of us in the nuclear physics program are deeply saddened by the loss of John Fox," Tabor said. "However, we are comforted in knowing that this wonderful scientist’s legacy will live on via the laboratory that now bears his name."