In memoriam: Stephen Reucroft (1943-2020)

Steve Reucroft

It is with great sadness that we report the death of our good friend and colleague Stephen (Steve) Reucroft, who was a Fermilab user, after a long struggle against cancer. He died on Oct. 20.

Steve grew up in Morley, Yorkshire. He earned his bachelor’s in physics in 1965 and his Ph.D. in particle physics in 1969 from the University of Liverpool. His early research career at CERN, the Max Planck Institute and Vanderbilt University focused on precision measurements using the high-resolution rapid-cycling bubble chambers HYBUC and LEBC at the CERN PS and SPS. These included resonance properties, hyperon magnetic moments, and charm particle production and decay. He was the CERN-EP group leader for the North Area experiments NA13, 16 and 27. Subsequently, he was spokesperson of E743, which took LEBC to Fermilab to successfully resolve a controversy about the energy dependence of the charm production cross-section.

Steve became professor of physics at Northeastern University in Boston in 1986, working at the highest-energy colliders (CERN’s LEP and LHC, Fermilab’s Tevatron, and the Superconducting Super Collider) and the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. He developed novel scintillating-fiber detectors that were used successfully in the L3 experiment and proposed for the SSC. He built up and led a large research group on the L3 and DZero experiments working on precision electroweak and QCD measurements, the discovery and study of the top quark, and confirmation that there are only three generations of light neutrinos. Steve was an early collaborator on the CMS experiment at the LHC, where he led a consortium of eight NSF-supported university groups in the construction phase of the detector. Steve and his group made major contributions to the electromagnetic calorimeter, especially the novel avalanche photodiode sensors, the software and computing systems, and the physics analysis. Steve was Matthews distinguished professor and a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Steve actively promoted technology transfer from academia to industry. He co-founded a nonprofit technology transfer company in Boston and the first company to bring silicon photomultipliers to market, he initiated a cloud service for the protection of elderly and fragile people, and he initiated a crowd funding campaign to further next-generation nuclear energy technologies.

Steve was a strong advocate for young scientists, advising more than 45 Ph.D. students and postgraduates, and was very active in scientific outreach. He co-founded the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at CERN, judged the Intel (now Regeneron) International Science and Engineering Fair, and co-wrote a science column for The Boston Globe newspaper. He wrote numerous academic papers and popular articles and books, and he was a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Steve’s door was always open for a friendly chat about physics or life in general. He had a warm heart and was invariably cheerful with a unique sense of humor. He was a very good friend who will be much missed – for his trademark opener at coffee times, “what’s new and exciting?”, sharing a good dinner “avec beaucoup de l’ail,” or simply enjoying a decent pint and a game of football. In the words of one of his close friends, “Steve just always made me laugh, which is one of the best things in life.  I’ll miss him.”

Lucas Taylor wrote this tribute on behalf of Steve’s many friends and colleagues. Taylor is a Fermilab guest scientist and member of the Fermilab Office of the Chief Project Officer.