In Memory Of
Alfred Hill
West Germany / Seat 14A
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Alfred Hill
June 29, 1959 - December 21, 1988 (Age: 29)

Alfred Hill, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) at the University of Bologna, was killed on 21 December 1988 in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was not yet 30.

Born in Hamburg on 29 June 1959, Hill studied physics at the University of Groningen in Holland. His thesis for the Dutch degree of doctorand us, entitled "Hot Gluons," was written under the guidance of David Atkinson; it dealt with finite-temperature effects in quantum chromodynamics.

Hill studied particle theory with Martinus Veltman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received his PhD in 1987 for his thesis, "Higgs-Singlet Scalar Interactions." After finishing his PhD work, he went to the University of Bologna to work with Ettore Remiddi on the radiative corrections to the lifetime of positronium. All who were acquainted with Hill were impressed by his exceptional intellectual powers, his confidence, and his painful honesty. In Michigan he would confront the famous colloquium speakers with good questions that often went into the essence of a problem; sometimes this led to uneasy situations. There he also made profound progress toward resolving the ambiguity of how to extend Dirac'sgamma-5 matrix from higher dimensions to four dimensions.

His approach was based on nontrivial and original geometrical considerations. He demonstrated remarkable ease in mastering almost every undertaking he attempted, be it understanding string theory or the quantized Hall effect, speaking eight languages, scaling Mount McKinley or thoroughly overhauling his old car. Hill tried, as his great compatriot Goethe had done, to understand foreign people and cultures and to incorporate into himself all that he found worthy in them.

We all expected to see his name in the headlines someday, although given his versatility, it was not clear in what context. The loss of someone of such rare promise is a great blow, both to physics and to humanity.

Source: Physics Today 43, 2, 154 (1990); doi: 10.1063/1.2810472

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