Dr. James Stephen Brooks

July 18, 1944September 27, 2014

Memorial arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Dr. Brooks name to WFSU and NPR, 1600 Red Barber Plaza, Tallahassee, FL 32310 or your favorite charity.


Dr. James Stephen Brooks

have a memory or condolence to add?


November 7, 2016

I recall James back in 1968 in Eugene when we were graduate students -- he had a radio show back then.
Lauren Stille Gascoigne, Westminster California

Bill Skocpol

May 14, 2015

Jim Brooks was an essential colleague at Boston University. He invited me give a Solid State Seminar on my work on quantum effects in MOSFET inversion layer nanostructures in 1987, after my wife had returned to Harvard while I was still at Bell Labs. Then he worked with Larry Sulak and others to get me a tenure offer, responding with enthusiasm when part way through the process my research switched to High-Tc Superconducting Thin Films (as did half of other materials physicists).

He gave me temporary lab space while the animal confinement cages were being removed from the shell space that had been held for an appointment like mine. He consoled me with the slow pace of construction of my lab and promoted cooperation with his student Jeff Hettinger. Within that first year, he and Larry went after my close collaborator at Bell Labs, Paul Mankiewich, our nanofabrication whiz. Since Paul wanted to earn a Ph.D., Brook's Applied Physics Ph.D. Program allowed enough flexibility to help make that work out. Paul then helped develop a wonderful Materials Research Facility, when previously there was not even equipment to deposit a simple thin film.

Jim's ability to handle sudden twists of fate was shown at 6 am on April 8, 1988, during that first year. I was scheduled to be a committee member for the Thesis Defense of Yu Pei Ma, his student, later that day. I asked what I should do, as my wife was going into labor with our first (and only) child. He said "Don't worry, your wife is your only responsibility, we'll figure out how to cover for you at the defense." I never asked quite what that meant.

There were many other times when I sought his wise counsel, regarding my students, my research, and what the heck TTF-TCNQ stood for. That was on my mind when WBZ called the physics department to ask for a scientific question (and answer) that Ozzie Osbourne could answer (impressively correctly) on the air. I happened to be there and came up with a question which asked what was the chemical composition of TTF-TCNQ, and what were the various phases that it exhibited at various temperatures and magnetic fields. We taped it off the radio, and played it at Jim's engagement party (?) on Plum Island. Alka Swanson still has the tape.

I was very disappointed when Jim left BU for FSU, because of the shift of the magnet lab from MIT to FSU and Los Alamos. But I fully understood his dedication to both research and teaching, and knew that FSU was the only place that he could continue both important aspects of his life. Jim Brooks was a marvelous human being, and I have greatly missed having him as my immediate colleague ever since he left Boston University.

Joe Brill

October 28, 2014

I got to know Jim in 2001 when he was on sabbatical at U. Kentucky. We shared similar interests in physics and had a lot of fun discussing a variety of topics from physics to students to beer. He also taught a graduate student seminar class in organic conductors that was very popular with the students and he clearly was really enjoying teaching it. I'll always think of him with a smile and is family and FSU department have all my sympathy.

George Schmiedeshoff

October 27, 2014

I've started this paragraph about a dozen times since I first heard the news, and I haven't gotten it quite right. This won't be quite right either, and it's a long way from complete, but with the deadline for submission looming I wanted to get something in.

I'm still a bit stunned. Brooks and the magnet lab go together so strongly in my mind that it's hard to imagine one going on without the other.

I first met Brooks in the summer of 1979, but I didn't really get to know him until I started working for him as a postdoc at the old magnet lab in 1985. I learned so much from him, from the group, from our neighboring groups, from the magnet lab staff, and from the endless stream of magnet lab users passing through that I can't possibly list it all. It was a mind-altering experience for sure. Brooks taught me how solid state physics differs from helium physics, how to keep dilution refrigerators running with 5-minute epoxy, and why it's a bad idea to leave GE varnish near the coffee machine. I learned about writing grants, how beer is good for experiments, where and why to buy hawaiian shirts in Las Vegas, where the good night spots were/are, and I started learning about institutional politics...a subject I'm still trying to learn (Brooks was a natural). It was an honor to have worked with him.

Brooks was especially supportive as my postdoc was winding down and I was trying to figure out which way I wanted my career to go. He "gave me" one of the research subjects that he and I had been working on and through him I met some of the collaborators that I have been working with ever since. I wouldn't have this career that I love without Brooks. We haven't collaborated since those days, but we would cross paths at the March Meeting and I would visit him when I was running in Tallahassee. I wish I had visited with him more, a lot more. I miss him.

Ardith Flory

October 25, 2014

Marla, James, Marcia, and Roger:

I met James at Boston University through Physics class. I worked in his BU research group that ran a low temperature high magnetic field facility at the MIT Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory: I put electronic instrumentation together for experiments and partioned disks to set up his first IBM personal computer. We became close and I enjoyed traveling with him to Ireland, New Mexico, Colorado and California for conferences and leisure. I enjoyed his famous parties at the lakeside Wellesley house and partnering with him to buy another house; a beach house in Newburyport, MA, where we had, you guessed it, more parties. I knew the support of his friendship for 34 years and feel the loss deeply. I only wish I could have had the chance at another 34 years of his unique and wonderful friendship.

My father Stan, a former chemical engineer, and his wife Brigitte of Baton Rouge LA; my brother Charles, his wife Aileen; my friends Kathy (Sullivan) Mager and Virginia (Thornton) MacSweeney of New York all had the pleasure of meeting James and send their condolences.

Stephen Nagler

October 21, 2014

It's hard to add too much to what has already been said about Brooks in this guest book. I was not privileged to have him as a colleague but I did interact with him on many occasions, and those interactions were always uplifting. He was a special person who will be remembered fondly and missed greatly.

Hans Schneider-Muntau

October 16, 2014

I am very sad to hear of the sudden death of Jim. He was a most wonderful person and friend. I treasure the many colorful memories of working with him during the exciting times in the early days of the magnet lab.

It was a unique chance in our lives to be able to build such a magnificent facility and develop successfully a vision for the future. We were able to find and meet pioneers, new people with new ideas, people who shared our enthusiasm to explore new frontiers. And I was able to meet Jim.

He was such a pioneer, not only in physics but also in his daily life. He was a very creative scientist, always asked the right questions and gave everything a positive and exiting twist. Nothing was steady; it was as if he lived the first derivative. His strong and persuasive personality was instrumental in shaping the human and scientific environment of this new laboratory, helping it move in the right direction.

One of his character facets was his wonderful sense of humor and a story comes to my mind. Jim lived in an isolated location on the long beach of Bald Point State Park, about one hour drive from the magnet lab, where we visited several times for barbeque, sailing and surfing. I asked him if he was fearful of living alone with the neighbors so far away, and he had the perfect European answer. He said, with a straight face, “Last week a man entered my property without asking for permission, so I took a gun and shot him down. It was the postman. How stupid, now I won't get any mail anymore.”

I was very much impressed by his strong scientific curiosity and quest for physics. This reminds me of another typical moment. The strong fields at the magnet lab and their strong gradients made magnetic levitation possible. Of course, Jim had to try it. We looked at the floating material and discussed together if and how a special magnetic field shape might improve or originate new effects. There was always the same question he murmured again and again: but where is the physics, where is the physics?

He had such great curiosity about exploring and working at other magnet laboratories. I do not know of any magnet facility in the world where he has not worked and left his traces, including Japan and even Arzamas-16.

Jim was a very caring person, and he had a very open heart for everybody who needed his help and support. He had a most wonderful relationship with his students and taught them not only physics but also how to catch fish and oysters. The open house was always spectacular because of his lessons about the physics of frozen oranges.

Jim's sudden death creates a void in my life. Somehow I had hoped to see him again somewhere around a magnet, trying to increase the field with pole pieces or doing flux compression experiments. We did not stay together because facts of life separated us, but I will keep in my heart the memory of a most curious, joyful and caring person. I believe he may now be somewhere in a better world, learning (or teaching?) the physics of what holds this world together.

Leslie Woolley

October 14, 2014

Dear Janet and Brooks' family,
We will miss Brooks. We will miss seeing him at the Beach and hanging out with him there.
We will miss seeing him in DC. I will never forget the time you all stayed with us for the weekend. He entertained our two children who were probably 4 and 7 by introducing them to magnets and making a face mask out of tin foil. I will never forget him sitting at the table with a piece of tin foil molded to his face and the kids just entranced that an adult would do such a cool thing.
In particular Janet we loved him for the way he took care of you.
We love you both.
Leslie, Doyle, Ann and Cameron

Shaojie Yuan

October 10, 2014

I still can not believe this is true. It seams to me you are just away for a meeting or an experiment in Los Alamos.

Your spirit and attitude to science,to your career have influenced us and will keep influencing us.

It is an honor to be your student not only because you are a great physicist, but also for that you are a nice person, warm and kind.

Recently, News mentioned your family history, your childhood and the Manhattan project. You might knew Richard Feynman. Great people group. I should have asked more.

Thank you and it is an honor, Dr. Brooks!


Paul Parker

October 9, 2014