Robert Everest Newnham

Robert Everest Newnham, (age 80) of State College, Pennsylvania, a resident of Foxdale Village, died at Hershey Medical Center on April 16, 2009.

He was born March 28, 1929, in Amsterdam, New York, the son of the late William E. and Dorothy M. Hamm Newnham.

On July 26, 1964, Bob married Patricia Friss Newnham, a nurse from E. Hartford, Connecticut, who survives. Bob and Pat had two children – a son, Randall E. Newnham of Reading, Pennsylvania, and a daughter – Rosemary E. Newnham of New York City.

A graduate of four universities, Bob studied mathematics at Hartwick College (B.S., 1950), physics at Colorado State University (M.S., 1952), physics and mineralogy at Penn State (Ph.D., 1956) and crystallography at Cambridge University (Ph.D., 1960). Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 1966, he was an I.C.I. Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University and taught in the Electrical Engineering Department of M.I.T. for 10 years.

At Penn State, Bob taught courses on Crystal Physics, Crystal Chemistry, Electroceramics, Mineralogy, Gem Minerals, Biomaterials, X-ray Diffraction, and Crystal Structure Analysis. Widely known for his enthusiastic lectures and colorful illustrations, Bob was honored with the Outstanding Educator Award of the Ceramic Education Council, and the Wilson Teaching Prize of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. During his career, he delivered the Dow Lectures at Northwestern University, the Wolff Lecture at M.I.T., the McMahon Lecture at Alfred University, the Pond Lectures at Johns Hopkins, the Maddin Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Byron Short Lecture at the University of Texas. After retirement, Bob taught for two years at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Professor Newnham was active in several professional societies serving as Editor of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society, Secretary of the Materials Research Society, President of the American Crystallographic Association, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Among his many Awards was the Jeppson Medal, the E.C. Henry Award, the Bleininger Award, the David Kingery Award of the American Ceramic Society, the third Millennium Medal and Ultrasonics Achievement Award of the IEEE, the Centennial Award of the Japan Ceramics Society, the Turnbull Lecturer Award of the Materials Research Society, the Adaptive Structures Prize of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Electrical Engineering from the Franklin Institute, and the Basic Research Award of the World Academy of Ceramics.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Bob Newnham wrote five books, more that 500 research papers and 20 patents on electroceramics and composite materials for electronic and acoustic applications. The composite piezoelectric transducers developed in his laboratory revolutionized the quality of ultrasound images in cardiology, obstetrics, and underwater sonar. Every major ultrasonics manufacturer in the world including several in central Pennsylvania use composite transducers based on his designs. His miniature flextensional transducers for hydrophone towed arrays is one Penn State’s most successful patents. They are widely used in underwater oil explorations and geophysical research.

During the past forty years, Bob and his long-time colleague Eric Cross, built up one of the largest ferroelectrics research programs in the world. Together they pioneered a number of new piezoelectric and electrostrictive materials for use as sensors, actuators, and capacitors. They were the first to carry out a complete classification of primary and secondary ferroics with examples of each.

He retired from Penn State in 1999 as Alcoa Professor Emeritus after serving eight years as Associate Director of the Materials Research Laboratory and 18 years as Director of the Intercollege Program on Solid State Science.