Remembering Jack McIntosh 

Middletown, January 2023

The Wesleyan Physics department fondly remembers our late colleague Jack McIntosh who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this January. John Stanton “Jack” McIntosh was born in Ford City, Pennsylvania, on January 6 in 1923. Just about when he turned nineteen, the US had entered World War II. Like many in his age group, which some have called the Greatest Generation, Jack was enlisted and ultimately flew reconnaissance sorties over Japan. Finally, it was Jack’s time  to return to his interrupted college education. Already as an undergraduate student at Yale, he had developed his lifelong passion for both physics and dinosaurs. Fortunate for Wesleyan’s Physics Department, he was told “there is no future in paleontology”. So Jack decided  to pursue his other interest “on the side” and to focus on physics in his formal education. In rapid succession, Jack earned a B.S. in 1948, a M.S. in 1949, and a Ph.D. in 1952 (in nuclear physics), all from Yale. Right after completion of his doctoral degree, he joined a theoretical physics-based group at Princeton, code named Project Matterhorn, that was led by Archibald Wheeler and that played an important role in the development of the first H-bomb. After this effort ended in 1953, Jack stayed at Princeton as  Assistant Professor. He then became chair of the Wesleyan Physics Department where he worked until his retirement in 1998.

However, “retirement” took on a very specific meaning for Jack. Rather than pulling back, he devoted his considerable energy and undisputed expertise to the study of sauropods, something he had done  all these years anyway in addition to teaching physics. The recruitment to Project  Matterhorn had made it clear that it was classified and that all “contact with one's normal scientific work is pretty much a nights and Sunday matter”. So Jack was used to and good at juggling two (and more) things. Yes, the sauropods – where would they be without Jack? Some might still have a wrong head on their slender necks. Even in  popular culture (Jurassic Park), his accomplishment of finding the correct skull match for Apatosaurus is well known. However, it is his systematic work, sustained over decades, that earned him the respect of his paleontology colleagues. And the honor of having not one but two dinosaurs named after him (Brontomerus mcintoshi – or “thunder thighs” – and Abydosaurus mcintoshi). No future in paleontology? Ha!

Jack loved hiking in the mountains; in 1966, he became the 357th “forty-sixer” to climb all 46 of the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains.  On one of these hikes, atop Mt. Marcy, Jack met two others with whom he became fast — and lifelong — friends.  They agreed to meet again the following year, and so was born the “Halloween Hike”, in which a number of Wesleyan students and faculty participated over the course of many years.

Jack Mcintosh was a friendly, warm, modest, curious, kind human being. He loved opera (Wagner in particular), the outdoors, companionship, kids, laughter. He was a wonderful friend and colleague.