MSU Physics & Astronomy loses long-time faculty member

  • Jan 2, 2018

Professor Emeritus Thomas A. Kaplan passed away on December 30, 2017. He was 91 years old.

Tom Kaplan joined the Physics faculty at MSU in 1970 and taught courses into the 1990s. Until his illness in late August 2017, he went to the office daily and continued to actively research and publish. Among many honors, he received the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist award, was a Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Tsukuba, Japan, and was included in the American Physical Society/American Institute of Physics' publication, The Physical Review - The First Hundred Years. He was recognized as an APS Outstanding Referee in 2009. He was a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

[photo of Prof. Tom Kaplan]

His research interests were mainly in understanding magnetism on a microscopic scale, including theories of complex magnetic ordering, electronic structure theory behind models of such ordering (and disordering), e.g., Heisenberg models, etc. This extended more recently into the field of multiferroics, the connection between complex magnetic ordering and ferroelectricity. He also investigated some theoretical aspects of quantum entanglement which may be of potential use in information technology.

Born February 24, 1926 in Philadelphia, PA to Michael and Nellie (Cohen) Kaplan, Tom lived an amazing life full with loving family, scientific discovery, a passion for progress and human rights. Surviving are his wife of 61 years, Patricia (Roe), three daughters: Melissa (Andy Callis), Andrea (Brian) Jones and Laurie (Andy) Chiou; 3 grandchildren: Amber Meyers, Alex and Christopher Chiou; great granddaughter Chloe; brother Donald (Edith) Kaplan and nephew Mark, as well as numerous dear colleagues and friends including former son-in-law Fred Engelgau.

Before pursuing physics, Tom played trumpet professionally, starting at age 16 with big bands on Atlantic City's Steel Pier. He was a member of many Lansing area music ensembles including the Arts Chorale of Greater Lansing for over 30 years, MSU's Jazz Band III, Jackson Jazz Ensemble, Caravan Band, Carl Cafagna's Creole Kitchen and the LCC Jazz Band.

Tom was a World War II Navy veteran, playing trumpet in the Navy Band.

He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1948 and went on to get his Ph.D. in Physics there in 1954.

He delighted in family gatherings, watching sports (as an avid Spartans fan), practicing trumpet nightly, traveling around the world with wife Pat, and sharing a corny pun.