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Physicist William Shurcliff; Advocated for Public Interest

He became a liaison between that office and the Pentagon, scrutinizing hundreds of technical intelligence reports from military departments. He worked with the U.S. patent office to make sure that patents connected to the Manhattan Project were kept secret until the war ended.

He also co-edited "Atomic Energy for Military Purposes," the official history of the atomic project. It was better known as the "Smyth Report," named for its author, Princeton University physicist Henry DeWolf Smyth.

Like Smyth, Dr. Shurcliff was apprehensive about the Cold War buildup of atomic weapons for military use. He used his memberships in the Council for a Livable World and the Federation of Atomic Scientists to underscore his concerns.

In 1948, he joined Polaroid Corp., started by Harvard classmate Edwin Land. During the next 12 years, he worked extensively in optics, held more than 20 patents and refined the automatic-focus slide projector.

After retiring from the Cambridge Electron Accelerator in 1973 -- around the time of the Arab oil embargo -- he taught himself about solar energy and ways to create insulating window shades and aluminum foil reflectors.

Reading about other solar designers was "infuriating," he told the New York Times. "Half the information was missing, and systems were vaguely described as 'ingenious' without explaining why they were ingenious or how well they worked. Sense had to be made of it."

He wrote several well-received practical books on solar energy and more than 100 articles. Crispness, simplicity and precision were hallmarks of his writing style as well as his method of teaching. He once explained the special and general theories of relativity on the back of an envelope -- and as a challenge, limited himself to single-syllable words.

In 1941, he married Joan Hopkinson, the daughter of portrait painter Charles Hopkinson. She survives and lives in Cambridge. Other survivors include two sons, Arthur Shurcliff of Cambridge and Charles Shurcliff of Ipswich, Mass.; a sister; and two granddaughters.


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