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Retired science editor Robert Lamar dies at 77

STANFORD -- Robert E. Lamar, who was for 27 years science writer and editor for the Stanford University News Service, died of cancer on Wednesday, July 8, at his campus home. He would have been 78 years old in August.

Lamar joined the News Service in August 1952 when the postwar growth in scientific research on university campuses was hitting full stride.

He was involved almost immediately in reporting development by Stanford physicists and medical doctors of a scaled-down version of the university's electron linear accelerator for medical use. The resulting machine, now employed in hospitals around the world, produced a beam more powerful and precise than that of X-ray treatment.

In his first year with the News Service, Lamar covered the selection of physics Professor Felix Bloch as Stanford's first Nobel laureate for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance. Twenty-four years later, he reported on the university's 10th Nobel winner, physicist Burton Richter.

Until his retirement in August 1979, he covered a wide variety of stories of national and international importance.

Among them was the pioneering work of Stanford electrical engineers in meteor astronomy and ionosphere physics. That work led to establishment of a year-round Stanford station in Antarctica for atmospheric studies and to the erection of an "antennae farm" in the campus foothills, surmounted by the "Big Dish," a 70-ton parabola used to make man's first radar contact with the sun.

Professor Von R. Eshleman, who directed Stanford's participation in the launching of space vehicles to observe Mars and Venus in the mid- 1960s, remembers Lamar as "a stickler for getting the facts straight."

Lamar kept science writers around the country informed on the planning, construction and research results of the two-mile-long underground linear electron accelerator at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

His news beat extended northward from the home campus to the Medical School as long as it remained in San Francisco and southward to the Hopkins Marine Station on Monterey Bay. One of his Marine Station assignments was to convert into news stories the reports sent back to home port from the Te Vega, a 135-foot sail and diesel schooner that was on a two-year expedition to the Indian Ocean.

Lamar's beat also went from inner earth to outer space as his reporting career neared its end. In 1977, he wrote of how earth sciences Professor Tjeerd H. van Andel and two colleagues descended 10,000 feet in a submersible to discover hot springs that support a profusion of life on the otherwise barren ocean floor along the Galapagos Reef. And in 1978, it was the selection of Sally Ride, astrophysicist and holder of three Stanford degrees, as one of the first six women admitted to the nation's astronaut corps. She was destined to be America's first woman in space.

On the occasion of Lamar's 25th anniversary as a Stanford employee, President Richard W. Lyman wrote to him, "The growing public recognition of the faculty's many scientific achievements is due in no small part to your sustained, conscientious efforts over those many years. . . . I understand also that your careful craftsmanship has been consistently praised by your professional writing colleagues."

Robert Erskine Lamar was born August 25, 1914, in Sioux City, Iowa, the youngest of six children.

He served in the U.S. Army in 1940-46, first as associate editor of a servicemen's magazine, with a circulation of 66,000, put out by the Army Ordnance Department, and then as editor of a 12-page tabloid weekly published at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. He also had two years of public relations experience with Sylvania Electric Products in New York City.

He was married May 1, 1943, to Emily "Lee" Helen Carr. His wife and two sons, Douglas and Jon, survive him.

At the end of his Army service, he enrolled at Stanford, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1950, completing the usual four-year undergraduate program in two and a half years. He then worked as assistant news editor for television station KTLA in Los Angeles until joining the Stanford News Service staff in 1952.

His hobbies were travel, camping, golf and - above all - sailing. He and his wife maintained a 26-foot sailboat on San Francisco Bay and after his retirement, they trailered their craft to the East Coast and cruised from Maryland to Florida.

At his request, no services will be held. Donations may be directed to the Memorial Fund at Stanford, c/o Office of Development, 301 Encina Hall, Stanford, CA 94305-6076.



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