In memoriam: James Wiss

Jim Wiss

Fermilab user and UIUC professor emeritus James (Jim) Wiss died at his home July 12. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Wiss worked on a string of heavy quark experiments in Proton Area, E87, E400, E687 and FOCUS. He was a leader of the proposed BTeV experiment. Wiss received UIUC awards for his teaching. In 1982, he received a Sloan Research Fellowship for early-career researchers and was named an American Physical Society fellow in 2000.

Read Wiss’ memorial.

Below are remembrances from his friends and colleagues.

To me, Jim was an endless font of clever ideas. He usually had me working on five projects while telling me about three more ideas he was thinking about. He had a true passion for data and analysis and freely shared his ideas with anyone who could get the work done. That atmosphere of a constant back-and-forth of intense investigations, together with so many others was superb — the most fun and productive time of my career. I count myself very lucky to have had Jim for my advisor and E687 as my first big experience in HEP. I think I’ll pull out my box of grad school papers and reflect on Jim and the good old days. Farewell to our colleague, friend and mentor, you will be remembered by so many.
—Ray Culbertson, Fermilab


One time, it seemed, the University of Illinois wouldn’t reimburse Jim for the chains that the car rental company made him purchase. He had to walk to the nearest Sears or K-Mart through a snowstorm to buy the chains before they would give him the car. Jim tried a few times to get reimbursement, even trying to give the chains to U of I, to no avail. He then decided just to mount them on the office wall as a souvenir.

Jim came out the worst for wear giving a lecture at Fermilab. He started perfectly attired, suit and tie, and all that. A few minutes in, the tie loosened. Then the jacket came off, then the tie was further down, then off completely. Finally, his white shirt was completely out of his pants hanging down, completely disheveled, all the while, talking away, a mile a minute.

Rest in peace.

Peter H. Garbincius, Fermilab retiree