Donald I. Meyer (1926-2012)

Don Meyer was born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 13, 1926, son of Irwin Julius Meyer and Louise (Ruga) Meyer.   He died on 13 April, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


While working on his BS degree in Physics and Electrical Engineering at Missouri School of Mines at Rolla, Meyer was drafted into the Army in 1945. He served during World War II at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then received his BS degree in 1946. He went to graduate school at the University of Washington, finishing his PhD in 1953 and going on to teach at the University of Oklahoma until 1955.  He then worked briefly at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before joining the Physics Department at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor in 1957.  He was promoted to associate professor in 1961 and professor in 1966.  He retired from Michigan in 1997.

Meyer’s initial work at the University of Michigan was with Glaser’s group doing bubble chamber experiments. Later, he collaborated in work on strong interactions and the associated production of strange particles. During this period, he worked on a technique for modulating the voltage on the cathode of a photomultiplier as a means of achieving very good time resolution. He also collaborated on the development of a spectrometer magnet and on optical spark chambers.  (He wrote a memoir of this work, given elsewhere on this website,  for the 1989 Terwilliger Memorial Symposium

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Meyer collaborated on hadronic physics experiments at Fermilab. Later, he and colleagues helped initiate the multi-university high-resolution spectrometer collaboration at the positron-electron collider storage ring at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In the 1990s, he collaborated in a gamma-ray astronomy program at the Whipple Observatory in Arizona: Using Cerenkov radiation from gamma-ray air showers, the group employed a large mirror with a matrix of photomultipliers as its focus to observe photons with energies 10,000 times higher than could be studied by satellites. This resulted in detection of the first extra-galactic source seen at these energies, Markarian-421.

Meyer also contributed strongly to the department’s administrative and teaching functions.  Recognizing a need to train Ph.D. students in practical applications of modern physics technologies, he initiated a joint program between the Department of Physics and the College of Engineering that soon led to the highly successful Program in Applied Physics.

In 1987, Meyer was called on to represent the department in the design and construction of the $60 million physics research building that now joins Randall Laboratory and West Hall (formerly West Engineering ).  Concurrently he oversaw the renovation of those older buildings.  In recognition of his strong and effective leadership  in creating the physics department’s outstanding physical facilities, the meeting room in 335 West Hall has been named the Donald I. Meyer Commons.

Donald  Meyer was survived by his wife of 61 years, Lee Meyer (formerly Mary Lee Rogers), whom he married on September 8, 1950 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was also survived by his children Kurt Meyer of Ann Arbor; Karla (Meyer) Oshanski of Northville, Michigan; Kraig Meyer of San Francisco, California;  and by his grandchildren Nicole (Oshanski) Massey of Allen Park, Michigan; Ashley Meyer of Boston, Massachusetts; and Kari Oshanski of Columbus, Ohio.
– – -Adapted from the University of Michigan Regents retirement memoir: and the obituary of April 18, 2012:

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