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Two Scientists

June 26, 2019

This summer has been tough for me, with the passing of two scientists I knew well. The first is my father, the physicist John Slonczewski, 1929-2019. As Wikipedia helpfully says, “Not to be confused with Joan Slonczewski.”

Back in the 70s, John wrote the Britannica article on magnetism. A lifetime theoretical physicist at IBM, John invented equations for magnetic effects that are now used in all of our thumb drives and mobile devices. A video at the Computer History Museum describes his work.

John received the International IEEE Magnetics Society award for prediction of the spin transfer torque effect in magnetic thin films. He also received the 2013 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize for a lifetime of work including MRAM, Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory. This kind of memory is the only kind that does not “wear out” and is non-volatile (does not go away when power is off).

Nominated for a Nobel, John was better known to us over the years for his fun-loving adventures with family, especially beloved Esther.


My second heartbreak this summer was the loss of our Bacteria Lab graduate Sean Bush, 1994-2019, third-year medical student at Wright State who passed in a bicycle accident.

At Kenyon, Sean was a preternatural computer whiz who installed our lab’s supercomputer node that formed the foundation of our our current Bacteria Lab, our past six publications. He was also the most compassionate human on Earth, readily sharing his gifts with students ranging from Bacteria Lab to Wiggin Street Elementary.

He was still running our computer from med school, where he was on track to become a neurosurgeon. In life though you never know what’s round the corner, and Sean lived every moment as if it were the most important.

  1. June 27, 2019 2:34 am

    I did see the news about your father, Joan, and hope you are doing okay. Fondly, Betty


  2. Hillary Rettig permalink
    June 27, 2019 6:47 am

    Oh Joan, I am so sorry. Your dad sounds so neat, and his work was so important! And to lose a young talented young person is such a loss for us all, although Sean made a contribution far beyond his years. I wish you, your family, and everyone in your laboratory the best during this sad season.

  3. June 27, 2019 7:22 pm

    Dear Joan- my heartfelt sympathies for your loss.

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