Irving J. Lowe Jan. 4, 1929 - March 26, 2013 Physics Pioneer, Professor at Pitt

By Schackner, Bill | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

Irving J. Lowe Jan. 4, 1929 - March 26, 2013 Physics Pioneer, Professor at Pitt


Schackner, Bill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Irving J. Lowe, a professor, scientist and outdoor enthusiast who made seminal advancements in the early development of nuclear magnetic resonance, died Tuesday in his Squirrel Hill home of chronic heart disease. He was 84.

Mr. Lowe's tenure with the University of Pittsburgh's department of physics and astronomy spanned five decades beginning in 1962. In the mid-1980s, he was invited, based on his achievements, to participate in the Pittsburgh NMR Center for Biomedical Research, a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and Pitt housed at the Mellon Institute at CMU.

"He was a very brilliant person in his field," said Chien Ho, the center's director. "He was an outstanding scientist with great vision."

The appointment was one among many scholarly milestones for the New England native whose family described him as having been a reluctant student until age 14. It was then, they said, that he reread a geometry book from a class he had struggled through a year earlier, and it sparked what became a lifelong dedication to mathematics and physics.

Mr. Lowe was born in Rhode Island in 1929 and raised mainly in Biddeford, Maine, his family said. After his father, Louis, a locksmith, and his mother, Frieda, a fabric store worker, divorced, he and his mother moved to Brooklyn.

She supported the family by becoming a dental hygienist and court stenographer, while Irving helped by working part-time jobs, his family said.

A full scholarship awarded to promising students by the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art made it possible for Mr. Lowe to receive a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the all-honors private college in New York City. In 1956, he received a doctoral degree in physics from Washington University in St. Louis.

While at Washington, he participated in the developing research area of nuclear magnetic resonance. NMR is a tool for the analysis of molecular structure, and later advances created a branch of the technology known as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, a powerful diagnostic tool in clinical medicine. …

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Irving J. Lowe Jan. 4, 1929 - March 26, 2013 Physics Pioneer, Professor at Pitt
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