Celebrated physicist Richard Hemingway retires

By Professor Peter Watson

Professor Richard J. Hemingway retired on July 1.

A Senior Research Scientist of the Canadian Institute of Particle Physics (IPP), Hemingway was an important and internationally distinguished member of the Carleton University particle physics group since 1977. As Honourary Research Professor in Physics, he was a leader in the development and strengthening of particle physics research at Carleton and throughout Canada.

Hemingway obtained his undergraduate and PhD physics degrees at Manchester and Oxford universities respectively. After graduation he first joined the University of Maryland particle physics group, and then spent an extended period at the European physics laboratory, CERN, in Geneva. His research topics throughout this period dealt with measurements of the particle properties of mesons and baryons using data obtained in several bubble chamber experiments. Hemingway joined the IPP and Carleton in 1977.

During his time at the university, Hemingway participated in three major particle physics projects. The first was an experiment carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre (SLAC) studying the properties of a class of mesons containing a strange quark, then the OPAL project at the LEP accelerator at CERN, and for the last seven years the SNO solar neutrino experiment in Sudbury.

After the SLAC experiment, in 1980 he became the leader of the CHEER project: an ambitious scheme to install a secondary ring at Fermilab to collide electrons with the proton beam. He brought together the members of a fragmented Canadian community to assemble an impressive proposal. Although the project did not ultimately proceed, CHEER showed the scale of investment of both money and human resources required for Canada to be competitive in major experiments, and led the Canadian community forward into important roles in large international particle physics experiments.

Hemingway’s outstanding work and leadership during the 21-year OPAL project are particularly noteworthy. The OPAL project involved the construction of a large set of particle detectors followed by a 12-year period of data collection at the CERN electron- positron collider LEP. It was carried out by an international collaboration of about 350 physicists from eight countries and 30 universities including Carleton, Montreal, Alberta, UBC and Victoria in Canada. Hemingway was a member of the core leadership group throughout the project both in Canada and at CERN. He spent three separate years at CERN leading OPAL collaboration work on software development, data analysis, and physics analysis respectively.

The OPAL physics measurements at LEP are an important milestone in particle physics. The measurements tested and confirmed our current theories of the electroweak and strong interactions to extraordinary precision, and set the stage for the next generation of LHC experiments at much higher energy.

From 2000 to 2006, Dr. Hemingway was the principal investigator of the Carleton group working at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO). Data measured by the SNO detector, located two kilometres deep in Inco’s Creighton Mine, showed that the neutrinos produced in the core of the sun oscillate to a different flavour of neutrinos by the time they reach terrestrial detectors. This solved an important and perplexing 30-year-old scientific problem concerning neutrinos and how energy is generated in the sun.

In 2004, Hemingway was honoured by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for having held research funding continuously for 25 years. Along with other members of the SNO collaboration, he received the award of the inaugural NSERC Polanyi Prize in 2006, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute in 2007.

Hemingway has been selected to serve on many national and international particle physics advisory bodies. These include terms as the Canadian representative on the International Committee on Future Accelerators and on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the German national accelerator laboratory DESY in Hamburg. Within Canada, he has been a member of the NSERC grant selection committee, and served on several NSERC site visit committees. He was also a strong supporter and advocate of national physics organisations including both the IPP and Canadian Association of Physicists.

This distinguished faculty member has been widely recognized for his professionalism, integrity, and commitment to quality in all his scientific endeavours. He has a well deserved reputation for being realistic and scientifically objective in evaluating an experiment’s potential capabilities as well as new physics analysis results. He has also always been an enthusiastic advocate for his current experiment and its associated team. Hemingway continually encouraged and supported colleagues with his unbounded enthusiasm, and spent considerable time and effort mentoring junior researchers and supervising graduate students.

There is one other noteworthy characteristic of this distinguished faculty member’s long career that should be mentioned, namely the many warm and strong friendships he maintains with an unusually large number of former colleagues in Europe and North America.

On the occasion of his retirement from Carleton and the IPP, the members of the Carleton University Department of Physics take great pleasure in recognizing his outstanding scientific and professional accomplishments and look forward to continuing our close association in the years ahead.

Comments are closed.