In Remembrance of Donald Landis, 1933-2019

Donald A. Landis passed away on January 11, 2019 at the age of 85. He began his employment at the Lab in 1959 and retired as a Senior Staff Electronics Engineer in the Engineering Division in 1991. Though formally retired, after a short break, Don continued his affiliation with the Lab until 2016. Don, a native of California, began his electronics career in the U.S. Army where he was placed in the Signal Corps. While in the Army, Don was deployed to Germany to help rebuild the German phone system after the war. After finishing his tour in the Army, Don began pursuing a BS in Electrical Engineering UC Berkeley. After graduating in 1959, Don joined the Laboratory’s Nuclear Chemistry and Physics Instrumentation Group (headed by Fred Goulding), which became the Department of Instrument Science and Engineering (DISE) and is now the Electronics, Software & Instrumentation Engineering (ESIE) Department.

Under Goulding’s mentoring, Don completed his Master’s Degree in 1961 and developed expertise in low-noise preamplifiers and associated amplifiers with an emphasis on pulsed-feedback techniques. He was also affiliated with the development of semiconductor particle and energetic photon detectors in support of nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry. His expertise became a unifying theme of his long and distinguished career at the Laboratory. In the early 1960s, Don started designing detector instrumentation that was eventually used in all of the Berkeley Lab accelerators.

This was a particularly dynamic period in Laboratory history. The 88-Inch Cyclotron had recently been commissioned, the search for transuranic elements was actively being pursued at the HILAC, and the Bevatron was at the peak of its productivity as a premier facility for elementary particle physics. Don’s development of electronics for experimental physics and nuclear chemistry was a welcome addition to the Laboratory and later for Biophysics experiments.

Don’s importance to the Lab was highlighted by the many contributions he made through the direct support of the nuclear chemistry and physics research staff. His instrumentation was used to study the properties of heavy elements (transuranics produced at the HILAC and SuperHILAC), nuclear structure and reactions (HILAC, 88” Cyclotron and 60” Cyclotron at the Crocker Lab on campus), exotic atoms (Bevatron), and heavy ion beams for biophysics (Bevalac). Some of the more noteworthy projects were the: 198 counting system, particle identifier system, beam integrators at the 88″ cyclotron, mirror position measuring electronics for the Keck 10 Meter Telescope, first Time Projection Chamber analog pulse processing electronics with discrete components, and signal processing electronics for the Iridium anomaly coincidence spectrometer that played a key role in developing the argument that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Don also played a key role in developing the signal processing electronics for the GammaSphere, for the Princeton Tokamak X-ray spectrometers, and for the 76^Ge double beta decay experiment, to name a few.  

Don Landis won the respect of a varied group of collaborators with whom he worked and the gratitude of dozens of colleagues whose careers he enhanced. His achievements were recognized across the international scientific community. Even though Don retired from the Lab in 1991, he continued to contribute to the GammaSphere experiments at the 88” Cyclotron for many years.

Don is survived by his wife Joan, son Mark, daughter Laurie and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Life service was held on February 3, 2019 at the El Sobrante United Methodist Church.