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William Carl Schieve ’51

September, 19, 2020, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

A Portland native, Bill was an honor student and track star at Grant High School. He majored in physics at Reed, where he wrote his thesis, “Bose-Einstein Gases,” advised by Prof. Jean Delord [physics 1950–88]. He married Florence Gilleland ’53 in Portland; his lifelong friend David Ashmore ’52 was his best man. Bill and Florence moved to Pennsylvania, where he earned both a master’s and a PhD in physics from Lehigh University. He wrote his dissertation on “The Equations of Motion of Point Singularities of the Electromagnetic and Charge-Symmetric Scalar Meson Fields.”

Bill’s fields of interest included many-body relativistic particle mechanics, relativistic Bose-Einstein condensation, relativistic chaos, ultra-high-temperature thermodynamics, classical-quantum correspondence, quantum statistics of the micromaser, and chaos and limit cycles in Hopfield neural nets.

He began his career in the early ’60s at the United States Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) in San Francisco, where he was awarded a silver medal for his research. He received a NATO fellowship for a year’s study in Belgium at Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he met future Nobel Prize laureate Ilya Prigogine. Prigogine invited him to join the Center for Complex Quantum Systems in Austin at the University of Texas. For more than 40 years, Bill mentored UT students toward their PhDs, and researched and wrote papers and books with colleagues. He authored more than 100 articles and edited five books in the field of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and chaos. With his student Matthew Trump, he published the book Classical Relativistic Many-Body Dynamics (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999). Quantum Statistical Mechanics (Cambridge, 2009), the book he wrote with Lawrence P. Horwitz, is referenced frequently. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Ulm.

Bill was honored with an American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) award at the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) for work on the nonlinear and stochastic dynamics of the superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID). He received the Senior Humboldt Prize and a University Institute Award for a sabbatical leave to the Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, Garching bei München, Germany. His work on chaos in the SQUID, particularly the effects of noise, both quantum and classical, resulted in a semiclassical perturbation analysis of the mean field description of the laser. Two years later, he again received the ASEE award for a series of papers on a new nonlinear dynamics model of the Hopfield neural network. 

Bill and Florence lived in Austin and then moved to a small farm near Fredericksburg, where they entertained visitors from around the world. She survives him, as do their two children, Catherine and Eric.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2021

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