Frank Shoemaker, 1922-2009

Frank C. Shoemaker, 86, of Hightstown, NJ died on February 11, 2009. Dr. Shoemaker was Professor Emeritus of Physics, Princeton University, and a leading high energy/elementary particle physicist. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Member of Sigma Xi and of Phi Beta Kappa.

Professor Shoemaker was born in Ogden, UT to Roy and Sarah Shoemaker – the second of their five sons, all of whom would go on to earn PhDs. He spent his high school years in Boise, ID where he met his future wife, Ruth Elizabeth Nelson. Both he and the future Mrs. Shoemaker attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA where they were both elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Following graduation and marriage, both worked at the Radiation Lab at MIT in Cambridge, MA on the development of radar for use in WWII. After the war, Dr. Shoemaker received his PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and moved to Princeton to begin his nearly 40-year career in Princeton University's physics department. He was made a full Professor of the University in 1962.

Dr. Shoemaker arrived at Princeton in 1951 and was a founding member of the University’s experimental particle physics group, initially leading several major accelerator projects. He led the reconstruction of the University’s Palmer Cyclotron after a fire in 1952 and, in the course of his research, performed pioneering experiments on the strong focusing of particle beams. He then went on to lead the design and construction of the 3-billion volt Princeton-Pennsylvania Accelerator, and served as Associate Director of the accelerator program from 1962-66. In 1968-69, he took a year-long leave of absence from Princeton to become the first head of the Main-Ring group at the National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL (later named Fermilab), and led the design and construction of that facility’s 1-km radius main accelerator ring. He also suggested the introduction of the herd of bison that still grazes around the accelerator.

Returning to Princeton in 1969, Dr. Shoemaker played critical roles in Princeton experiments conducted at Brookhaven National Lab (NY) and Fermilab that provided confirmation of the new quantum chromodynamics theory of strong interactions and the unified theory of weak and electromagnetic interactions. He served as Principal Investigator from 1972-85. Following his retirement from teaching in 1989, he played a major role in the Booster Neutrino Experiment, MiniBooNE, at Fermilab, and was listed as a co-author on a paper published in 2008.

He served as the Director of Undergraduate Physics Studies from 1981-89 and, in that role, transformed the teaching of introductory physics at Princeton. He was a dedicated teacher and served as mentor to generations of students and junior faculty. He authored or co-authored over 100 papers and articles.

Dr. Shoemaker was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by his alma mater, Whitman College, in 1978.

In addition to physics, Professor Shoemaker’s main passions were his family, classical music, sailing and dogs. A month of lake-side family camping in NH with his Flying Scot moored off-shore and bare-boat sailing charters with family as crew were the perfect vacations. His home was never without a canine companion until the few years just prior to his death, and music always filled the air.

Following his retirement, he and his beloved wife Ruth traveled the globe together, visiting all 50 states and 5 continents. After nearly 57 years of marriage, Mrs. Shoemaker died in 2001 and Professor Shoemaker moved to the Meadow Lakes retirement home in Hightstown, NJ where he spent his last 8 years. He is survived by his beloved and loving daughters Barbara Shoemaker and Mary Mittnacht, both of Santa Fe, NM, and a brother, Sydney Shoemaker, of Ithaca, NY.