Published: March 22, 2013

MSU cyclotron pioneer Henry Blosser dies

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Media Communications office: (517) 432-0920 cell: (517) 281-7129

Henry Blosser, one of the pioneers in the field of accelerator physics who was the founding director of Michigan State University’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, has died. He was 85.

Blosser came to MSU in 1958 to serve as the founding director of the burgeoning cyclotron laboratory. The facility was built in 1963 and went online in 1966. It was under his direction that it became a leading facility in the world for nuclear physics research.

“Henry will live on in our memory as a visionary administrator and great technical innovator,” said C. Konrad Gelbke, who currently serves as NSCL director. “It is because of his seminal work that the lab continues to prosper today.”

Blosser earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia. Prior to his arrival at MSU he was on staff at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1954-58.

He served as director and co-director of the MSU cyclotron laboratory from 1958 until his retirement in 1989. He also was an adjunct professor at Wayne State University’s Department of Radiation Oncology.

“Henry Blosser was truly one of the pioneers in the field of nuclear physics, an internationally acclaimed scientist who has left an indelible mark on the field,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “It was through his efforts that the NSCL became the premier research facility of its kind in the world. And, because of that, MSU is now on its way of becoming home to the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.”

Blosser was the author of dozens of published papers on various topics in nuclear and accelerator physics. Among his many honors: MSU Distinguished Faculty Award (1972); Guggenheim Fellow (1973-74); 1992 American Physical Society Tom W. Bonner Award for outstanding contributions to nuclear physics; and Detroit News 1984 Michiganian of the Year.

NSCL is a world-leading laboratory for rare isotope research and nuclear science education and is the country’s largest nuclear science facility on a university campus. The laboratory faculty and users train about 10 percent of the nation’s nuclear science doctoral students.

The laboratory’s scientists investigate the properties of rare isotopes and nuclear reactions. These reactions, some of which take place in stars and exploding stellar environments such as novae and supernovae, continue to produce many of the atoms that make up human beings and indeed most of the observable world.

It’s because of the success and reputation of NSCL that MSU was selected to design and establish the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. FRIB will be a new cutting-edge national user facility for nuclear science, providing intense beams of rare isotopes to better enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of these isotopes.

This will allow researchers to gain deeper understanding into key scientific questions including the origins of stars and the universe. Isotopes discovered may have important applications for medicine, national security, metallurgy and other uses.


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