Leading figure in nondestructive evaluation Bruce Thompson dies

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.

9 thoughts on “Leading figure in nondestructive evaluation Bruce Thompson dies

  1. I have enjoyed my interactions with Bruce over many years, and will miss his perceptive and positive comments. He was a definitive figure in his field.

  2. In all my years in the Engineering and Science field, I have not known such a genuine person, with such a heart of Gold. I must also say that on the technical side, Bruce was one of the best at positive collaboration that over the years has greatly contributed to the Safety of the Flying Public!!!!

  3. I worked with Bruce for the last 15-years under the ETC R&D program. He was unequaled in explaining complicated or difficult to understand technical issues. His technical contributions were a major factor in all the successes achieved by the ETC and FAA. We have all lost a great friend and a colleague.

  4. I worked with Bruce on several studies and reviews we performed for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in recent years. He tirelessly and unselfishly contributed his time, his knowledge, and his understanding in these endeavors, and the US Air Force and the nation really benefitted. The “heart of gold” comment from Mr. Kerman really struck a chord–he had such a great sense of humor, and it was always pointed in a positive and constructive direction. Goodbye good friend, we will miss your wisdom and your smile…

  5. From 1996 on the CNDE industrial advisory board, to the years of productive interactions on the FAA-ETC, to valuable collaborations at QNDEs, and his welcome presence in our European-American NDE working groups, I came to know Bruce as an expert in the field of NDE, an excellent mentor, and a person of integrity and character without peer. I’ll never forget your introducing me to race-walking (and trouncing me 😉 ), your career advice, and especially the high energy you were always winning to share. God speed.

  6. What a shock to look up Bruce’s e-mail address to ask him a technical question today, March 11, and learn of his passing. Friends and intermittent colleagues since his Rockwell days, I’ll miss his boundless warmth and wisdom.

  7. Bruce helped me get into an online version of an NDT course when I was pregnant which really helped me to be able to graduate. He wrote a special permission for me to take the class even though I still lived in Ames and the distance ed office was highly against my enrollment in the class. That was very nice of him – I still appreciate that very much. I graduated in Fall 2009.

  8. Bruce was a gentle, patient, postive colleague; it was impossible not to like him and to do whatever one could to support his purpose: the advancement of knowledge in his field. I am sorry to learn of his passing and I hold his family’s wellbeing in my heart.

  9. Bruce was an inspiration to me when as a postdoc I entered the research field of NDE of advanced materials in 1974-1975 and he was established at RISC in Thousand Oaks, Calif. After that we met off and on over the years — there and at other venues like IEEE Ultrasonics Symposia, a technical meeting on Oahu in Hawaii, and at Iowa State. He helped me to start and then sustain my own career as a researcher in applied physics. He stood head and shoulders above most of us who worked in his NDE field. More than once as his guest I experienced his gracious hospitality. I am sorry to hear of his passing and offer my sincere though belated condolences to his family. — Sheffield, Vermont, in retirement.

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