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Obituary of Harry Edmund Gove

19 July 2010

Nuclear physicist Harry Edmund Gove died at his home in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 18 February 2009. Born May 22, 1922 in Niagara Falls, Ontario he received a BSc degree in Engineering Physics in 1944 from Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. During the war he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy. Gove then studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology earning a PhD in nuclear physics in 1950. From 1956 to 1963 Gove served as Branch Head of Nuclear Physics at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (Chalk River). Later from 1963 to 1988, as a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, he established and directed the Nuclear Structure Research, Laboratory, a major National Science facility; he was also the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 1977 to 1980. He became Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Rochester in 1992. Gove was an editor of Physical Review Letters from 1975 to 1979 and Associate Editor of Annual Reviews of Nuclear and Particle Physics from 1978 to 1994. In 1980 Gove was one of three recipients of a JARI Medal (Journal of Applied Radiation and Instrumentation) for outstanding contributions to development of accelerator-based dating techniques.

From 1952 onwards at Chalk River Gove used a 3MV Van de Graaff for nuclear-reaction studies and many important discoveries were made. This research triggered interest in the higher excited states of nuclei and ultimately led to a desire for a higher voltage machine.

In 1959 Gove was party to the purchase and installation in Canada of the first version of a new type of electrostatic accelerator based upon the use of the tandem principle. This design had many unexpected virtues besides higher ion energy. The location of the ion source at ground potential facilitated the introduction of complicated ion sources that allowed rapid changes of ion species for both light and heavy ions. Then it was found that the machine could accelerate any atom in the periodic table having the capability of forming suitable negative ions. Finally it was very suitable for high-rate coincidence experiments.

The Chalk River tandem proved to be a superb heavy ion accelerator at a time when the use of heavy ions was beginning to become of great interest to nuclear physicists. The work was especially notable for the carbon ion reactions, which showed unexpected resonance-like structures, dubbed nuclear molecules. Overall, Goveâ's Chalk River group invented and reported many innovative experimental techniques plus related data that projected the machineâ's great potential for advancing nuclear-structure physics and for providing data for fields ranging from Cosmology to Archaeology. As a result several hundred such devices have since been installed for both pure and applied nuclear physics.

From 1964 onwards Gove directed the new Nuclear Structure Research Laboratory at the University of Rochester as Professor of Physics. Over the next decade this facilities was used for a wide range of nuclear reaction studies and generated a wealth of new data which provided the opportunity for extensive tests of model calculations for nuclei ranging from the 1p shell to the actinides. During this period a program of heavy-ion reaction studies was developed, together with a pulsed-beam facility with sub-nanosecond resolution that was also brought into operation.

In 1977 Gove enthusiastically supported and joined the first experimental demonstration with the tandem that negative ions of 14N, unlike those of 14C, are unstable with very short half-life. These measurements demonstrated that a tandem as part of a mass spectrometer could be designed for high-speed single atom counting of carbon-14 atoms in samples having present-day 14C/C abundance ratio, (about 10ï -12).

Such a tool complements the time-honored beta-ray radioactivity measurements pioneered by Libby, although the minimum sample requirements for dating can now be less than a milligram rather than ~1 gram. Also, the new sputter sources permitted dating to ~60,000years (14C/C ~10ï -16) about 30,000 years older than beta-ray counting. There are now more than 80 tandems of all sizes involved in various applications of AMS. Gove's two books, which include "Relic, Icon or Shroud" and "From Hiroshima to the Iceman", give fascinating accounts of the application and development of AMS.

To his colleagues, Harry Gove was an enthusiastic researcher who enjoyed every moment spent in the laboratory and at events that he attended. His infectious laugh at occasionally absurd results or comments will long be remembered as will his own incisive and sporadically acerbic observations about them.

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