College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Leading figure in nondestructive evaluation Bruce Thompson dies

Bruce Thompson

Bruce ThompsonBruce Thompson, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and Director of the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation at Iowa State University, died on Monday, March 7, after a valiant fight against cancer. Thompson was 69.

Thompson also served as Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department and the Aerospace Engineering Department.

The author of over 230 publications and holder of numerous patents, Thompson was a world leader in many aspects of nondestructive evaluation, including his pioneering recent work on the development of model-assisted techniques for determining the probability of detection of flaws in materials that could lead to failure. He has been honored with numerous awards, including being elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2003, the premier honor in engineering.“Bruce was an outstanding person and a prominent researcher,” said Jonathan Wickert, dean of the College of Engineering. “He was a tremendous influence not only in his field, but also on everyone who worked with him. We are deeply saddened by his loss.”

Upon arriving at Iowa State in 1980, Thompson joined Ames Laboratory (a Department of Energy National Laboratory located on the Iowa State campus), at which he held a number of research and administrative positions. He joined the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department (now part of the Aerospace Engineering Department) and the Materials Science and Engineering Department in 1986. In 1997, he became the director of the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation.

Thompson earned his PhD in applied physics from Stanford University in 1971. He then joined the staff at Rockwell International Science Center, becoming a group leader before leaving for Iowa State. He has served in many leadership and advisory roles both within and outside Iowa State, including a current appointment to the Air Force Science Advisory Board.

“All of us at Ames Laboratory and across campus mourn Bruce’s passing,” said Director Alex King. “We remember his friendship, vitality and sense of humor very fondly.”

A gathering of friends will take place on Thursday, March 10, from 5-7 p.m. at Reiman Gardens near the Iowa State campus. A memorial service is planned for Friday, March 11, at Collegiate Presbyterian Church, 159 Sheldon Avenue, Ames.

Memorials may be made to the R. Bruce Thompson Engineering Scholarship in Non-Destructive Evaluation, payable to the ISU Foundation.