Condolences for James Wiss

Ron Mompier posted on 8/8/20

I remember Jim from Doc Rank's physics class back in high school. Those two would have discussions that left the rest of the class glossy-eyed. In gym class we were closer to equals. We would bring up the back of the pack while running laps but have the most wonderful conversations while half running, mostly walking. His sense of humor was spontaneous, insightful, but most of all endearing. He was modest and always a genuine person despite his considerable mental talents. We didn't keep in contact after high school but he was that person you would remember for a lifetime and always get the warm feeling inside when you thought of him. May you have found your peace, Jim.


Doris Y Kim posted on 8/1/20

Dear Jim, It's very sad to hear that you have passed away. As a young researcher, I learned a lot from you on serious physics research. I still remember your initial caution on the D0 lifetime difference, when you found the number was not zero. As many people know now, that was a starting point to a serious physics subject. You were a good mentor and colleague. Those discussions during the lunch breaks at Urbana sandwich places, and during the road trips to Fermilab are still fond memories to me. Rest in Peace, and I hope you are happy where you are now.


Kihyeon Cho posted on 7/31/20

It is so sad to hear the news. I would like to express my sincere condolences while remembering him.


Gianluigi Boca posted on 7/31/20

dear Jim, I knew you from 1988 until 2005 during my work at the Fermilab charm experiments E687 and FOCUS. I admired you very much, you were my model of how a scientist should be. You knew how to lead a research group both from the bureaucratic point of view and, more important, from a scientific point of view. You never gave up doing physics 'hands on' even when your career was progressing. I remember your countless work presentations at the collaboration meetings and your keen intelligence during physics discussions. I am grateful since you taught a lot to me. I remember your decisive help - just an example - when I was stuck at a critical stage of my analysis on the Omega_c. I am sorry to learn that you passed away and I hope now you are happy somewhere in heaven.


Dario Menasce posted on 7/31/20

Jim was our role model, both as a human being, as a scientist and as an accomplished and faboulus teacher. We are a group of Italian scientists, colleagues and friends, who had the chance of collaborating with him in Particle Physics research for over twenty years at Fermilab. Every passing day, at the lab, we had the chance to learn something new from him. Even things we already knew he was able to present them to us under a different light. Working with him was not only a pleasure (his sense of humor was fantastic) but it was also a privilege, it made us appreciate that there is no limit in how deep things can be studied and understood. He was also a great companion to spend time with: I remember him once in Italy, on a long trip high in the mountains. After a few hours of walk he was exhausted, but his humor never let him down. We are deeply missing you, dear Jim. May the earth be light upon you.


daniele brambilla posted on 7/31/20

RIP Jim. You have been an inspiring professor even over the Ocean to a young Italian student who had the great opportunity to meet you in Fermilab. I own you the only little "contribution" I gave to physics as you sponsored my results on semi-leptonic decays. I will never forget you.


Sharon Gray Garbutt posted on 7/30/20

Jim has been a good and fascinating friend for over 50 years! The only thing I knew for sure when meeting up with him was that it was going to be fun...whether we got off on movies, politics, books, trips, art, physics(!)---whatever it was, Jim would always be there with his unique insights and enthusiasm. I will miss him, but thinking about him will always make me smile.



Peggy Pennell posted on 7/30/20

To honor the memory of a kind and appreciative professor.


Inga Karliner posted on 7/30/20

Thank you Jim for teaching me about Grappelli.


Rob Gardner posted on 7/30/20

It is difficult to overstate the impact Jim had on my formation as a particle physicist with a computational bent. Each day began in his office with analysis and interpretation of results from the overnight data processing or detector simulation runs on the computers we had in the department at that time. We were sitting on a very rich charm particle data set, and Jim’s goal was to squeeze every last ounce of it to reveal and measure the quantum properties of heavy quarks. He loved charm physics, statistics and model fitting. These morning discussions could sometimes last until lunch, at which point we’d continue them down at Murphy’s on Green Street, developing the strategy for the next steps. Long afternoons of quiet analysis or writing papers usually followed, the sounds of Charlie Parker’s music coming from Jim’s office across the hall. There was little email or other modern disruptions back then; the pace always seemed relaxed yet incredibly productive. When there were setbacks, a disappointment, or some other result that challenged our thinking, Jim’s response was always “let’s get coffee” and we’d sort it out. I always enjoyed trips to Fermilab with him, to work on experiments or give talks at collaboration meetings, which were a sort of competitive sport for Jim. I learned quite a lot about physics and analysis on the backroads between Urbana and Batavia. I fondly remember taking shifts with Jim in the wideband laboratory. There was the joy of laboratory work and even sometimes drama in the “counting house” where we recorded data with our FOCUS collaborators. After a week of long days and nights spent successfully commissioning a rebuilt detector, we returned to Urbana late in the evening. As he dropped me off he remarked “it’s been real.” It surely was. Of the many memories and phrases from Jim that I carry around in my head, that is one I’ll savor.