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Obituaries

Walter D. Knight; UC Berkeley Physicist, Dean

July 02, 2000

Walter D. Knight, 80, professor emeritus of physics at UC Berkeley, and an innovative researcher in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance. Born in New York City, Knight graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1941 and earned his master's and doctoral degrees at Duke University. He served as a radar officer in the Navy during World War II, where he received a grounding in electronics that proved helpful in his later experiments. He joined the UC Berkeley physics faculty in 1950 and became a full professor in 1961. At Berkeley, he pioneered the use of electric quadrupole resonance and magnetic resonance as sensitive probes in studying structural and other changes in metal crystals. His research also played a crucial role in understanding the electronic properties of metallic alloys and superconductors. Later in his career, he did groundbreaking work on the physics of small metal clusters, now referred to as nanoclusters. Knight served as assistant and then associate dean of the college of letters and science, Berkeley's largest college, from 1959 until 1967, when he was appointed dean. During turbulent campus protests in the 1960s, he was once forced to barricade himself and his staff in Moses Hall overnight to protect confidential student and faculty files from protesters. Before returning to teaching in 1972, he split the unwieldy job of running the department among four new deans--one each for humanities and the physical, biological and social sciences. On Friday at his summer home in Marlborough, N.H., of heart disease complicated by Alzheimer's disease.

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