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Former Stanford Physics Professor William Fairbank Dead at 72

October 2, 1989

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ William Fairbank, whose work in low-temperature superconductivity laid the foundation for hundreds of scientific experiments around the world, has died. He was 72.

Fairbank, professor emeritus of physics at Stanford University, suffered a heart attack Saturday while jogging near campus, university officials said Sunday.

Fairbank researched the nature of superconductivity and participated in the search for gravity waves, subatomic particles called quarks, and monopoles, believed to be a component of magnetism.

His work is the basis of a multi-million dollar project to test a final unproven prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Fairbank, who was working in his lab the night before his death, believed in what he called the ″Anti-Murphy Law of Physics.″ His theory held that when one understands an experimental situation correctly, three or four things come together to make the impossible possible.

He performed his first superconductivity experiment in 1947 with his brother, Henry, also a physicist.

Fairbank’s work centered on the ability of some materials to offer no resistance to an electrical current if they are cooled to near absolute zero. Stanford said Fairbank’s influence on physics included the development at Stanford of the superconducting accelerator in which a linear accelerator is cooled to 2 degrees above absolute zero. The superconductivity allows for greater degrees of sensitivity and led to the first demonstration of a free electron laser.

Fairbank was born in Minneapolis on Feb. 24, 1917. He graduated from Whitman College in Washington and earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1948.

Before joining Stanford in 1959, he taught at the University of Washington, Amherst College and Duke University, as well as working on the staff of the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Fairbank is survived by his wife, Jane, and sons, William Jr., Robert, and Richard. His brother is professor emeritus of physics at Duke University.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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