Carbonear physicist Davis Earle dead at 79

Work at Ontario laboratory paved the way for colleague’s Nobel Prize win

Andrew Robinson andrew.robinson@tc.tc
Published on January 11, 2017

Davis, second from the right, works with the SNO crew.

©Photo courtesy of SNOLAB

A physicist from Carbonear who played an important role in work that contributed to a colleague’s Nobel Prize win has died.

Eric “Davis” Earle was part of a team that created the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), also known as SNOLAB. It was built underground in an active mine for scientists to study particles from the sun called neutrinos.

Following a lengthy construction process, during which Earle served as the technical associate director, researchers collected data for 10 years. This work led to the discovery of why neutrinos do not appear on the sun’s surface and established the existence of three kinds of neutrinos.

His physics perspective, technical ability and matchless humour contributed not only to our scientific success but also to our success as a collaboration. Art McDonald

Earle died on Christmas Eve in Deep River, Ont. SNOLAB acknowledged Earle’s death in a post on its website last week, recognizing him as a “cherished colleague and founding member” of the team.

“Davis worked tirelessly for the success of SNO. His physics perspective, technical ability and matchless humour contributed not only to our scientific success but also to our success as a collaboration,” said SNOLAB director Art McDonald, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2015.

Davis Earle receives an honorary doctor of science degree from Memorial University in 2004.
Submitted photo

Earle spoke with The Telegram following the Nobel Prize victory.

“My head swelled up,” he said at the time from his home in Ontario. “We all know that this was a team effort.”

Davis was the son of Guy Earle, the last captain of the S.S. Kyle.

“My father tried to get me to join him in the codfish business in Carbonear, but I didn’t want to go work with my father at 20. I thought I needed to see a bit of Canada,” he told The Telegram.

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‘All about Earle’

He studied physics at Memorial University before obtaining a masters of science degree in British Columbia. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1959 and completed his doctorate studies at Oxford in 1964. MUN presented him with an honorary doctorate of science degree in 2004.

editor@cbncompass.ca