Edition 4, No. 1               April 5, 1996            Price: FREE


Editor:  Carl J. Gross

Contributor:  J. H. Hamilton


1. Russell Lee Robinson

The nuclear physics community lost one of its very finest in the death of Russell L. Robinson from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), on March 25, 1996. In every way in his research, in his administrative career, and in his personal life he was an extraordinary person.

Born July 30, 1931, in Louisville, Kentucky, he was the son of Margaret Fulton Robinson of Louisville and Russell E. Robinson. He received his bachelor of science degree in 1953 from the University of Louisville and both his master's degree and doctorate from Indiana University in 1955 and 1958, respectively.

He immediately went to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). His 36-year career at ORNL can be divided into two periods, the first 23 years he spent mainly as a research scientist and the last 13 years in research administration until ALS brought about his early retirement in 1994. Of course, what is most fresh in everyone's minds is how, as Scientific Director of the Holifield Heavy Ion Research Facility (HHIRF), he unselfishly and untiringly devoted himself to making the HHIRF by far the most-used low-energy nuclear physics laboratory in the U.S. by scientists from universities and laboratories around the world. To document his unselfishness, he averaged 8.5 publications a year for 20 years from 1966 to 1985 and over the next 10 years only 1.7 per year. At the peak of a highly productive research career, he switched and, sacrificing his own research, devoted himself with great enthusiasm and dedication to making HHIRF a major user-friendly facility. During the period 1988-1990, 316 scientists used Holifield for research. In 1990, 59 Ph.D. graduate students actively worked on theses research there. Russell helped make HHIRF both scientifically and personally an enjoyable and exciting place to work.

Russell worked in a number of different areas in nuclear structure and reaction work that led to over 200 publications. He carried out many excellent Coulomb excitation and in-beam studies of medium mass nuclei, often working with Francis McGowan and Paul Stelson. He was a member of the team that did the pioneering work on measuring the quadrupole and large hexadecapole deformations of the uranium and other actinide nuclei. He was essential in helping the Vanderbilt group make similar measurements in the rare earth nuclei. In the early 1980s his reaction research moved towards higher energies. He played a key role in the development of the Oak Ridge proposal for a new, much-higher-energy heavy-ion accelerator to probe the next energy region of nuclear physics.

Russell and I worked in research for 38 years, beginning as graduate students working for the same research director, L. M. Langer, at Indiana. We published our first paper together in 1956 and were coauthors on his last paper in 1994. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Russell collaborated with the Vanderbilt group on 52 coauthored papers that explored the mass 70 region. This work included the discovery of a new region of nuclear shape coexistence that included what we called in 1971 "superdeformed" ground states in 74,76Kr with beta ~ 0.4. This work led to a number of invited papers at international conferences given or coauthored by Russell.

Russell made outstanding contributions to the development of the Joint Institute for Heavy Ion Research. In 1980, Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory joined together to provide funds for the first building of the Joint Institute. Russell, as the Oak Ridge representative on the Institute Policy Council, was put in charge of overseeing its construction and operation. A second building was dedicated in 1984. Russell deserves a major share of the credit for the success of the Joint Institute. To document its importance, the Institute sponsored over 30 conferences and provided support for over 500 scientists to come to work at Holifield with thousands of nights spent at the Institute by scientists working there during his tenure on the Council. For 20 years Russell also served as the ORNL representative on the University Isotope Separator at Oak Ridge (UNISOR, now UNIRIB Consortium) Executive Committee. He was personally involved in several of the important, early UNISOR experiments. He played an important role, through the Executive Committee, in keeping UNISOR on track and moving ahead.

Vanderbilt and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory took the lead in designing and raising the funds for a new recoil mass spectrometer for HHIRF. After the project was approved by DOE, Russell took the design and provided detailed specifications that were used for obtaining bids. He was in charge of ensuring that the specifications would be met, including working with the bidder to make modifications when necessary. At the same time, he took on the task to design a new building wing to house the RMS. The estimated cost of the first design was considerably more than the funds available, so he worked on the design until the cost was within the budget funds. It was most appropriate that the new building was named Robinson Hall in his honor. The RMS and Robinson Hall are here because of his dedicated, unselfish, and extremely capable efforts. The plaque in Robinson Hall reads, "Robinson Hall, Named in Appreciation of Russell L. Robinson, by his friends and colleagues, for his many contributions to the field of nuclear structure physics, most particularly for his efforts on behalf of the research program of the Holifield Heavy Ion Research Facility and for his untiring work in preparing for the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility - July 11, 1994."

During the same time as plans for the new RMS were moving forward, Russell helped successfully lead another charge that was even more essential for the future of Holifield. When Holifield was threatened with possible closure, Russell helped spearhead efforts to enlist university users to write the Department of Energy to stress the importance of Holifield for research and the unique opportunity Holifield offered to develop the first radioactive ion beam facility. Out of these efforts was born the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility. Russell again played a key administrative role in the initial planning and moving forward of the Holifield RIB facility.

The untiring dedication and commitment to excellence of Russell Robinson for many years was "the wind beneath the wings" of many, many research scientists, leaving a legacy of facilities that will extend years into the future while helping point the way to future generations of RIB facilities.

In 1953, Russell married the former Velda Flener, also from Louisville. In addition to his wife and mother, he is survived by three daughters, Jannelle Justice and her husband, Jessie, of Knoxville, and Julie Robinson Adkins and Rachel Robinson, both of Oak Ridge; a brother, Robert Robinson and his wife, Mary, of Louisville; and one grandson, Johnathan Justice of Knoxville.

The family requests any memorials be in the form of donations of Robertsville Baptist Church, Handicapped Accessibility Fund, 251 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830, or to ALS Research, 5516 Wallwood Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee 37912.

J. H. Hamilton Vanderbilt University


Additional copies of the newsletter and more information about HRIBF 
can be found on the World Wide Web at


Jerry D. Garrett, Scientific Director     |Email:
Mail Stop 6368                            |Tel:    (423) 576-5489

Carl J. Gross, Scientific Liaison         |Email:
Mail Stop 6371                            |Tel:    (423) 576-7698

Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility   |Tel:    (423) 574-4113
Oak Ridge National Laboratory             |Fax:    (423) 574-1268
Oak Ridge, TN 37831