Professor Howard A. Shugart 1931-2016

Professor Howard Shugart

"Howard Shugart has been immensely successful...his outstanding achievements can be attributed to his great efficiency and energy and even more to his impeccable integrity, courtesy and modesty, which is universally recognized and respected." cited in the department's nomination letter for the Berkeley Citation, 1992. 

Howard A. Shugart, Professor Emeritus of Physics and a dedicated educator for more than 60 years, passed away on Monday March 21, 2016. He was 84.

Born in Orange, California on September 21, 1931, Shugart received his BS in Physics in 1953 from the California Institute of Technology.  He continued his studies in Physics at UC Berkeley, earning his MA in 1955 and his PhD in 1957. 

He joined the department as a lecturer in 1957, becoming a full professor in 1959 and then emeriti in 1993. From 1980- 1987 he served as vice-chair of the department and was responsible for a complete reorganization of the advanced laboratory courses for physics majors. Colleagues cited him as among the first to recognize the valuable role computers could have within physics. He was dedicated to improving lower division and upper division laboratories through introduction of computers, new experiments and computer simulations modules to demonstrate physics principles.

In 1965, he was named group leader of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab Atomic Beams Group. Research interests included atomic and molecular beams, low energy nuclear physics, and the experimental determination of the mechanical and electromagnetic properties of nuclei and atoms. 

In 1988 he became the second recipient of the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 1993, he received the Berkeley Citation for his dedication to the department and the University, as well as his “impeccable integrity, courtesy and modesty – which is universally recognized and respected.”

He was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, and resident and member of International House from 1953-62.  He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the National Speleological Society and the author of more than 130 scientific papers.

His passion for teaching extended to the greater Berkeley community as well through regular ‘Fun with Physics’ lectures and a demo lab on Cal Day entitled ‘Why Should Students Have All the Fun?’  During one such presentation, he was asked when he knew he wanted to a Physicist.  He responded that the pivotal moment came at the age of five when his father gave him a train set powered by a car battery (cables ran from the train through a window to the outside where they connected to the battery).  He remarked that he learned about electricity by expanding his train set, adding batteries to accommodate its growth – finally leading to a model railroad set complete with a town and countryside.  His curiosity about electric power grew, and he began talking with the lineman who worked in his neighborhood.  He said by the time he was seven he knew and understood how the power grid for his entire city worked.

Professor Shugart remained actively involved with the Berkeley Physics department and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory until his death. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Elizabeth (Betty) A. Shugart, who is retired from the nursing profession.  

Private graveside services will be held in Santa Barbara on Friday April 1, 2016. A public memorial in Northern California is planned for a later date.

Share your memories of Professor Howard A. Shugart

Visit the memories page

View photos of Professor Howard Shugart