george summerfield portrait

New display honors George Summerfield’s legacy

The late NERS professor is remembered for his contributions to neutron transport theory and warm humor.

This fall, visitors to the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory can visit a new display honoring George Summerfield, a professor of nuclear engineering and macromolecular science and engineering from 1963–1992. The NERS community remembers Summerfield as a warm friend and valued colleague. 

After receiving his BS (1958) and PhD (1962) degrees in physics from Michigan State University, Summerfield came to the University of Michigan in 1962 as a postdoctoral scholar in nuclear engineering. He joined the faculty in 1963.

George Summerfield

A nationally recognized expert on neutron transport theory, Summerfield published over 50 scholarly articles, including a well-known paper that proved the completeness of the half-range solutions to the linear Boltzmann equation.

Summerfield worked closely in theoretical support of John King’s neutron scattering experiments. The two men were close friends, and part of what was labeled as an “unusual collaboration” of several experimentalists, like King, and theorists, like Summerfield.

It was never ONLY research happening around the department, however. The monthly NERS poker night usually went late into the evening and featured the antics of “Up-a-Nickel George,” who never refused a bet.

Summerfield died on February 6, 1996, at the University Hospital here in Ann Arbor. He was 58 years old. 

”George Summerfield was a warm friend and valued colleague,” said William R. Martin, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering, said at the time of Summerfield’s passing. “As undergraduate program adviser, he counseled hundreds of students with care and thoughtfulness. As a faculty member, he will be remembered for his formidable intelligence and rapier wit. We will all remember George as a true friend who was always ready to have a cup of coffee and discuss the day’s events. We will and do miss him.”

“George Summerfield was a delight to know and superb company,” said former NERS faculty member Mike Williams. “If ever I was feeling a bit down in the dumps, I’d spend ten minutes talking to George and all my negative thoughts would evaporate. He was taken from us far too soon. He was a talented transport theorist.”

Items included in the display were curated by Summerfield’s daughter Susan Hammerman, and include various photos, letters, awards, and an anecdote from his other daughter ​​Linda Summerfield about the infamous “Sweating Contest” of 1981. 

The shelf is located in the John King Collaboratory on the fourth floor of the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory, which is directly behind the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project.

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