In Memoriam: Russell Hobbie, 1934-2021

Professor Russell Hobbie of the School of Physics and Astronomy passed away on December 16th. He died peacefully at home after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for many years.

Russ was born in 1934 in upstate New York. His mother was a librarian, and his father taught physics at Skidmore College. Russ graduated with a BS in physics from MIT, and he then earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1960. His dissertation research was in nuclear physics, and he performed his experiments at the Harvard cyclotron.

In 1960, he and his wife Cynthia moved with their young family to Minneapolis, where he joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota as a member of the nuclear physics group. 

In the late 1960’s, Russ began searching for new areas where physics could be applied. After meeting a pathologist at a dinner party, he began collaborating with medical doctors who were interested in digitizing lab results for research. Russ embarked on learning all he could about medicine, including auditing two years of medical school. In 1972, he began teaching the first course in medical physics at the University of Minnesota.

 In 1978, Russ published the first edition of his text book, Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. This has become a standard textbook in the field, and Russ completed the fourth and fifth edition with Brad Roth after his retirement in 1998. Roth and John Wikswo, who are both friends and colleagues of Hobbie's, commented in their obituary submitted to Physics Today that his book will continue to be essential to training medical physicists for years to come.  Russ is  also remembered for his advocacy for students and his service to the University over his 38 year career. For 12 years, he served as Associate Dean of Student Affairs in the Institute of Technology (now the College of Science and Engineering).

Russ had many interests, among them canoeing and fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the Quetico and the Canadian Arctic. In retirement he became an accomplished woodworker, and he and Cynthia enjoyed traveling and time at their cabin up north. They enjoyed theater, music, and visual arts in the Twin Cities. Russ is survived by Cynthia and his children, Lynn (Kevin Little), Erik (Pam Gahr), Sarah (Jacques Finlay) and Ann (Jeff Benjamin), and by his six grandchildren.

 Note:  Russ’s coauthor on the 4th and 5th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, Professor Brad Roth of Oakland University, has prepared a blogpost with an extensive remembrance of Russ, including interview excerpts and some early video lessons on applications of physics to medicine.