James M. Palmer

In Memoriam: James M. Palmer

January 04, 2007

OSA Mourns the loss of James M. Palmer

James M. Palmer died on January 4, 2007, in Tucson, AZ, at the age of 69. An OSA member since 1962, Palmer was research professor emeritus of optical sciences at The University of Arizona, where he earned his MS and PhD degrees in optics at the College of Optical Sciences.  He joined the university’s faculty in 1975.   Earlier in his career he worked at Hoffman Electronics/Semiconductor and then at Globe-Union/Centralab as a Senior Engineer.

A respected expert in radiometry and infrared systems, Palmer was involved in many aspects of radiometric instrumentation and detector design and fabrication, radiometric measurements and calibration, and radiometric systems analysis.  He played a vital role in bringing the study of radiometry into the mainstream of optics education, and was instrumental in the development of the optics undergraduate program at the University of Arizona.

“He loved working with students and he was deeply involved in getting more young people into optics by giving optics talks and demonstrations to K-12 students, as well as college freshmen,” recalls Jim Wyant, Dean, College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona.

Bill Wolfe, Professor Emeritus of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona, fondly remembers Palmer as both his student and his colleague, “He did an admirable job on his dissertation, which was the design and construction of a special radiometer that went to Venus to assess the greenhouse affect there.  It was completely successful.”  Wolfe recalls that  “Jim also helped me obtain the required spectra of both benign and cancerous skin lesions to investigate the technique of fluorescent detection.  It was a successful endeavor, and others are now promoting various versions of it.”

Palmer, a talented and avid singer, traveled with his choral groups to 15 countries, performing at Carnegie Hall and before the Pope in the Sistine Chapel. He is survived by his sister, Anne; his sons, John, Michael and Thomas; his step-daughters, Kristen and Julia; his niece, Lienchai; and ten grandchildren.