James Ely Shrauner (March 10, 1933 - June 1, 2015)


James Ely Shrauner

James Ely Shrauner died June 1, 2015 in hospice care at Brooking Park, Chesterfield, Missouri from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was born March 10, 1933 in Dodge City, Kansas and graduated from Cimarron High School in 1951. He attended the University of Kansas, where he worked his way through college, lived in Scholarship Houses one of which was Pearson Hall and graduated in 1956 with a BS in biophysics as a pre-med. In high school and college he held a variety of jobs including working on farm harvests, writing insurance contracts, and working on the railroad. He enjoyed relating his early work experiences which were uncommon for a college professor.

Ely received an MA in physics from Columbia University in New York in 1960 and his Ph. D. in theoretical physics in 1963 from the University of Chicago with Professor Y. Nambu, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics. His thesis work made early contributions to the role of chirality in hadronic physics. While in Chicago he also sang in the chorus of Gilbert and Sullivan productions. He held a postdoctoral appointment at Stanford University from 1963 to 1965.

Ely joined the faculty at the Physics Department at Washington University in 1965 and retired as an Emeritus Professor in 2001. His encyclopedic knowledge of many subfields of physics enabled him to teach a broad range of physics courses including all the standard graduate courses and the advanced courses as well. He had the knack for simplifying difficult physics and making it seem obvious, an important gift. He especially enjoyed meeting with students in the Council of Masters of the South Forty. He served on various Departmental Committees including the Colloquium Committee for which he invited a wide variety of speakers for a number of years.

Ely was a co-founder of the High Energy Theory Group in the Physics Department. His research was in many areas of particle physics and field theory. His path-breaking research on the pion form factor and in multi-quark scattering analysis flourished in the late 1960s, independently and in collaboration with his Ph.D. students Les Benofy and D. W. Cho. He collaborated with a number of physicists as evidenced by his Visiting Scientist Research appointments at SLAC in 1968, at Fermilab in 1974, and at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1975-76 and 1978. He was a Visiting Research Scientist and Consultant at Ames Laboratory 1978-1988 where he worked with Professor Charles Hammer of Iowa State University and Professor Brian DeFacio of the University of Missouri, Columbia. Their work demonstrated new insights involving vacuum and path-integral representations of the S-matrix and on the statistical mechanics, dynamic structure and renormalization of iconic phi4 theories. He was a Visiting Research Scientist and Consultant at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Universities Research Association Superconducting Supercollider Central Design Group 1985-1990 at which he investigated magnet technology. He attended the Aspen Center of Physics in the summer for many years.

Ely served as a Trustee of the Universities Research Association Panel, the consortium of 54 universities that managed Fermilab from 1979-1985. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and served on several national panels including the Executive Committee of the APS Division of Particles and Fields.

His family, friends and colleagues enjoyed his wry sense of humor. Ely was a welcoming person who was genuinely interested in others’ ideas. He had wide interests besides physics: he enjoyed poems by Robert Frost and especially liked music by Brahms or Mahler. He looked forward to concerts of the St. Louis Symphony, the Arianna String Quartet and the Studio plays at the Repertory Theatre. He was an avid runner and nature lover and enjoyed skiing and hiking, which made it that much harder when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He attended student basketball and volleyball games at Washington University. Travels included varied Elderhostel programs in bird watching, art museums and music. In retirement he served as President of the Professors Emeriti and enjoyed taking German and French courses with undergraduates.

Ely leaves his wife Barbara Wayne Abraham Shrauner, Senior Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering, a daughter Elizabeth Ann Caspari (Bill) of Chesterfield, Missouri, a son Jay Arthur Shrauner (Cynthia) of San Francisco, California, a brother Larry Shrauner (Jan) of La Crosse, Wisconsin and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be given to the American Parkinson Disease Association Greater St. Louis Chapter, 1415 Elbridge Payne Road, Suite 150, Chesterfield, MO 63017.