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UPTON, NY - A physicist and a guest researcher who worked at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory were killed last night when Swissair Flight 111 crashed off Nova Scotia, Swissair has told the scientists' families.
Klaus Kinder-Geiger, a German citizen who had been an associate theoretical nuclear physicist in BNL's Physics Department since April 1996, was 36.
Per Spanne, a Swedish citizen who was a guest researcher at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) facility and a BNL physicist from 1989 to 1996, was 53. He was employed by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France.
"I join the entire Laboratory community in grieving for these two brilliant scientists, and in sending our condolences to their families," said BNL Director John Marburger. "The loss of two such men, who both possessed sharp minds and remarkable personalities, is a terrible tragedy."
Kinder-Geiger was an associate scientist who specialized in the theory of BNL's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which is expected to begin operation next year. Kinder-Geiger received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Frankfurt, Germany in 1989.
Kinder-Geiger was traveling on Swissair en route to speak at a physics workshop at the European Center for Theoretical Studies in Trento, Italy, and to continue his work with physicists at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.
"Klaus was an incredibly brilliant, energetic, and imaginative young theorist," said Rob Pisarski, head of the Nuclear Theory Group, in which Kinder-Geiger worked. "He was one of the top physicists in the world in the quark-gluon plasma."
Quark-gluon plasma is a state of matter that was created just moments after the Big Bang, and that physicists hope to produce again at RHIC. "Klaus was extraordinary in being able to contribute to physics all of the way from the abstract formalism of quantum chromodynamics (the modern theory of protons and neutrons) to what will actually be observed when nuclei are smashed together at RHIC," said Pisarski.
"His unique style and sense of humor, as well as his work, made him a standout," said Mike Murtagh, head of the Physics Department at BNL. "It is tragic to see his life, and his promising career, cut short like this."
Kinder-Geiger is survived by his mother, his brother, and his former wife, Sharon Kinder-Geiger.
Spanne built a career of finding new ways to use X-rays for medical diagnosis and treatment, and for high-resolution imaging of objects.
He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Linkoping in Sweden in 1980 and first came to BNL as a guest scientist at the NSLS in 1985. Later, working at the NSLS as a guest and then as a full member of the Laboratory's Applied Science staff in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he helped pioneer a technique called phase-contrast microtomography which allows finely detailed images to be made of the interior of solid objects.
Moving to the Medical Department in 1993, he worked with BNL physicians to develop a brain cancer treatment called microbeam radiation therapy. At the time of his death, he was continuing that work with Swiss and American researchers at ESRF. He headed ESRF's medical X-ray facility, or beam line, where he was helping to prepare for the first clinical trial of a heart-imaging technique called X-ray angiography that has also been studied at BNL's NSLS.
"When Per published anything, you were absolutely sure he was right. He was an outstanding scientist and worked extraordinarily hard," said Bill Thomlinson, NSLS associate chairman and Spanne's longtime colleague. "He was a very quiet person, but with a very deep sense of humor. He was easy to work with, even in difficult times late at night on the beam line."
Spanne is survived by his wife, Vibeke Arnmark, of Shoreham, New York, and by twin