Recent Obituaries
In Memoriam Archive

James Borders ’63

January 27, 2020, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jim was born in Akron, Ohio. At Reed, he wrote his thesis, “Certain Aspects of the Photoconductivity of Pure Single Zinc Oxide Crystals” with Prof. Kenneth Davis [physics 1948–80] advising, and he continued his education at the University of Illinois, where he earned a doctorate in physics.

Jim began his career at Sandia National Laboratory and was a pioneer in developing energetic ion analysis of materials and in the application of ion implantation to non-semiconductor materials. His research group developed a noninvasive blood glucose monitor of diabetes using technology originally developed to measure the aging of explosives used in nuclear weapons. He was in charge of one of three teams investigating the explosion in a gun room of the U.S.S. Iowa in April 1989. The U.S. Congress asked Sandia to examine evidence the U.S. Navy used to conclude that the explosion, which killed 47 sailors, was intentionally initiated by a member of the crew. Jim and three other scientists from Sandia presented preliminary results to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and a House subcommittee. This investigation resulted in an apology from the navy to the family of the sailor accused of intentionally setting off the blast. Jim retired from Sandia National Laboratories after 27 years of research supporting U.S. nuclear weapons development programs. He presented research findings at international physics conferences and had many friends throughout the world.

Jim enjoyed playing bridge, growing orchids, gardening, and skiing. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Deborah, and his sister, Elizabeth Putjenter.

A loyal and engaged supporter of Reed, Jim generously supported the physics department through the establishment of the James Borders Physics Student Fellowship. Donations to this fund can be made in his name.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2020

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