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This is the 23rd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the Academy...
This is the 23rd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the Academy carries out the responsibilities for which it was established in 1964.
Under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering was formed as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. Members are elected on the basis of significant contributions to engineering theory and practice and to the literature of engineering or on the basis of demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. The National Academies share a responsibility to advise the federal government on matters of science and technology. The expertise and credibility that the National Academy of Engineering brings to that task stem directly from the abilities, interests, and achievements of our members and international members, our colleagues and friends, whose special gifts we remember in this book.
BY CHRISTOPHER A. SCHUH, CAROLINE A. ROSS, AND RACHEL A. KEMPER
JAMES DUANE LIVINGSTON III threw himself enthusiastically into careers as a researcher, educator, and author.
He was born June 23, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York, to James Duane and Florence Boullee Livingston. He died May 10, 2019, at age 88, alongside his wife Sherry Penney, in Sarasota, Florida, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning from a new car with a keyless ignition.
Jim was educated at Cornell University, where he graduated with a bachelor of engineering physics (1952), and at Harvard University, where he earned a master of arts (1953) and PhD (1956), both in applied physics. He then embarked on a 33-year career as a research physicist at General Electric Corporate Research and Development in Schenectady, where he focused on magnetic, superconducting, and mechanical properties of metals and alloys. He also held periodic visiting faculty appointments at Göttingen University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
His research was reported in several papers and patents, and he was proud that his findings were useful to other scientists and cited in publications from the 1960s to the present. His work on structural materials (including CoSi eutectoid alloys) and the mechanical and electronic properties of materials resulted in the publication of Effect of Metallurgical Variables on Superconducting Properties (with H.W. Schadler; Pergamon Press, 1965).
In 1985 he married Sherry Hood Penney and soon after they moved to the Boston area where she had been appointed chancellor of the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts.
In 1989 Jim left GE and for the next 9 years was a senior lecturer in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, teaching electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of materials in the core MSE curriculum. The resulting Electronic Properties of Engineering Materials (Wiley, 1999) was based on his undergraduate lectures.
Although the position was part-time, he was fully committed to the students and their needs and to the institute. He remained active in research and clearly enjoyed collaborating with colleagues, mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, and offering his expertise and industrial experience to MIT’s teaching and research enterprise. He taught a variety of classes, was an advisor to first-year students (for which he received the Best First-Year Advisor Award) and thesis advisor for graduate students, participated in professional education programs, and generally served as an ambassador for materials science and STEM education.
His contributions over the decades were recognized by a Coolidge Fellowship, GE’s highest scientific award; election as a member of the NAE and fellow of the American Physical Society and of ASM International; and a Distinguished Career Award from AIME.
Jim’s engaging conversational style translated well on the page, and later in his career he expanded his writing to reach a broader audience: Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets (1996) and Rising Force: The Magic of Magnetic Levitation (2011, both published by Harvard University Press) are popular science books on magnetism.
He was keenly interested in history and genealogy, and wrote A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights (with his wife Sherry H. Penney; University of Massachusetts Press, 2004) and Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York (State University of New York Press, 2010), historic accounts of two of Jim’s ancestors.
He was also active in local politics, serving 12 years as Democratic committeeman in the town of Glenville (1963–75), and in the campaign against the Vietnam War. In addition to being an accomplished tennis player, he was active on the stage in town drama productions and, at GE, in the annual Christmas musicals, for which he often wrote the libretto and lyrics. In fact, he even wrote songs and poems to help convey scientific principles. His creativity and sense of humor were appreciated and enjoyed by his students, colleagues, friends, and family.
Jim said many times that, of all his professional accomplishments, he was proudest of the NAE election—but even prouder of his daughters, Barbara, Joan, and Susan. He is survived by his three daughters from his first marriage, to Nancy Lee Clark, and one granddaughter; and by Sherry’s children Michael and Jeff Penney and two grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by them and by many more family members, friends, and colleagues.