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Obituary of Neville V. Smith

20 October 2006

Neville V. Smith, Scientific Director of the Advanced Light Source and a pioneer in photoemission spectroscopy, died at home after a brief battle with cancer on August 18, 2006.

Neville was born on April 21, 1942 in Leeds, England. A Foundation Scholar at Queens College, Cambridge University he obtained a BA with First Class Honours in 1963. Under the supervision of Tom Faber he went on to study the optical properties of liquid metals in the Cavendish Laboratory and earned his Ph.D. in 1967.

Following his thesis work, the power of the newly emerging technique of photoemission excited Neville's curiosity and he moved from England to join the group of photoemission pioneer Bill Spicer at Stanford, where he worked on the optical and photoelectric properties of alkali metals. During this period Neville's precision measurements on the infrared absorption of the alkali metals clearly showed that there no Mayer-el Naby anomalies in the spectra, a subject of considerable controversy at the time. In 1969 Neville moved to Bell Labs, and a year later married Elizabeth (Betsy) Poulson. While at Bell Labs Neville pioneered angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) in 1972 and k-resolved inverse photoemission spectroscopy (KRIPES) in 1982. With coworkers he showed how these techniques could be used to probe the band structure of crystalline solids and surfaces. He applied them to a broad range of problems in condensed matter physics, including charge density waves! in layered compounds, bulk and surface band structure of simple metals, adsorbate structure determination by photoelectron diffraction, and magnetism in bulk metals and thin films. In particular his work on the so-called Phase Model produced important insights into the surface electronic structure of transition metals. These pioneering techniques have been very widely adopted and are now essential ingredients to our understanding of the electronic, magnetic, and superconducting properties of a diverse array of materials and earned Neville a Distinguished Technical Staff Award at Bell Labs and in 1991 the Davisson-Germer Prize of the APS. During the last few years of his life he spent several months as a Senior Visiting Scientist of the Humboldt Foundation in Berlin and Juelich.

Neville was an early user of synchrotron radiation, at the Tantalus facility at the University of Wisconsin. With the development of each new generation of Light Source, the second generation National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the third generation Advanced Light Source (ALS) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Neville participated in pioneering applications of the new technologies. His considerable experience in these areas led him to serve on the advisory committees of several international light sources including BESSY II in Berlin, the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, and the Australian Light Source in Melbourne. He became Scientific Program Head of the ALS in 1994. There he played a key role in the development of the facility from its early years, helping to build the scientific program, advising on strategic planning issues, and supervising the general user program.

Neville had impeccable scientific judgment, both in terms of choosing problems to work on himself and also in advising facility management on scientific directions. His quiet and unassuming demeanor sometimes masked his very profound character, though rarely his dry sense of humor. During his career, Neville's gentle and supportive style enabled him to mentor many young scientists, including three of the authors of this obituary. His guidance and playful camaraderie will be sorely missed by his family, friends, collaborators, and colleagues.

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