Earnest Dwight Adams

Earnest Dwight Adams was born in Carroll County, Georgia, in 1933. His parents were sharecroppers on land owned by his grandfather, Earnest Johnson; Dwight was a champion cotton picker who could pick over 200 lbs a day. After graduating from Mt. Zion High School in 1949 he enrolled at Berry College, majoring in physics and mathematics and graduating summa cum laude in 1953. Adams and his wife, Joan Gordy Adams, were married in 1953. He obtained his master’s degree in 1954 from Emory University and was drafted into the Army, serving two years at Ft. Dietrich, Maryland. In 1960 he received his doctorate degree in low temperature physics from Duke University and then conducted post-doctoral research at Stanford University. While at Stanford he invented a switch that makes MRIs possible. In 1962, he became assistant professor at the University of Florida, associate professor in 1967, and professor in 1970. One of his earliest achievements was development, with his student Gerald Straty, of a highly sensitive gauge for measuring pressure at temperatures near absolute zero (minus 460 Fahrenheit). The Straty-Adams gauge has been adopted worldwide, and several of the original gauges are now in the Smithsonian Institution. Adams and colleagues also established the International Committee on Weights and Measures standard for defining temperatures within a fraction of a degree of absolute zero. In 1985 Adams and two colleagues obtained a $2M grant from the National Science Foundation and established the Microkelvin Research Laboratory, where he was its first director and principal investigator. The laboratory is the largest ultra-low temperature laboratory in the world and only one if its kind in the U.S. and achieves temperatures far colder than any in nature. Adams spent sabbaticals at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology, Nagoya University, University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, and Hahn-Meitner Institute Berlin. He wrote over 150 scientific papers and was co-editor of two books. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1972, received the Jesse W. Beams Research Award from APS in 1978, was recognized in 1986 as Outstanding Florida Scientist by the Florida Academy of Sciences, and received the Joseph F. Keithley Award in 2005 for Advances in Measurement Science from APS. In addition to his career in physics, Adams was devoted to environmental and public interest matters. He was a state and national leader in promoting recycling, waste reduction, and energy conservation and chaired the Sierra Club’s national committee on solid wastes. As the first legislative liaison of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, he significantly influenced the state legislature and successfully pushed for enacting Florida’s major recycling legislation. Adams also led efforts to establish the first curbside recycling, yard waste collection, and volume-based waste collection programs in the state. He also served on the Alachua County Energy Conservation Strategies Commission, providing expertise on reducing energy consumption and wastes. Adams’ other primary environmental interest was land use planning and development. He successfully fought intensive development along the Suwannee River, for which he received the Land Conservationist of the Year award from the Florida and National Wildlife Federations in 1990, and he pushed for stronger environmental protections throughout the state through his work on the Sierra Club’s Legislative Advisory Committee. Adams was extensively involved in the development of local comprehensive land use plans for over twenty years and served on numerous advisory committees to the Gainesville and Alachua County governments. He spearheaded successful efforts to encourage responsible development throughout Alachua County by, for example, preventing the construction of a beltway highway around Gainesville. Adams penned numerous guest editorials and was a frequent speaker in the media regarding public-interest issues. From the Sierra Club, Adams received numerous awards including the Florida Chapter Medal (2012), national Special Service Award (2013), and, with his wife Joan, the Florida Chapter Oak Leaf Award (1986). He was a founding member of the Alachua Conservation Trust and received their award in 2004 for contributions to land conservation in Alachua County and throughout the state. He is preceded in death by parents Lewis and Lois Adams, sister Dorothy Driver, and brothers Dumah Adams and Weems Adams. He is survived by his wife of sixty-four years, Joan Adams; sons Lowell Patrick Adams (Cathy Wilson), Darrell Adams (Kelly Moore), and Douglas Adams (Amando Navar); granddaughter Anna Adams; sister Clarice Cole; and brothers Dayton Adams (Mary Ann Adams) and Idus Adams. There will be a private service at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a favorite charity in memory of Dwight.