Harold Carlton Fitz Jr., 70, Nuclear Physicist, Bay Sailor

April 27, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Dr. Harold Carlton Fitz Jr., a nuclear physicist who developed and managed government programs to investigate the effects of nuclear weapons on atmospheric dynamics, died Tuesday of cardiac arrest at his Shady Side home. He was 70.

He began work on nuclear testing in the 1960s, during a moratorium on atmospheric nuclear tests that increased the need for data on the effects of atmospheric detonations on U.S. military systems.

Dr. Jack Carpenter, a longtime colleague of Dr. Fitz's, said they developed an extensive experimental program to provide the data.

Dr. Fitz later sponsored a program to produce and measure an extremely bright artificial light.

Born in Charleston, S.C., Dr. Fitz graduated from Severn School in Severna Park in 1944 and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1949. He earned a master's degree in nuclear physics from the University of Alabama in 1955 and a doctorate in solid-state physics from the University of Virginia in 1961.

From 1961 to 1964, he worked at the U.S. Army Satellite Communications Agency in Fort Monmouth, N.J., and was an associate professor of physics at West Point until 1967.

He was a project officer in the Defense Atomic Support Agency (later named the Defense Nuclear Agency) from 1967 to 1970. He retired from the Army in 1970 as a lieutenant colonel.

He was a division chief in the Defense Nuclear Agency from 1970 to 1985, when he began working at Physical Research Inc. He was a vice president of Visidyne Inc., a Massachusetts-based scientific research company with offices in Washington since 1992.

Dr. Leon Wittwer, who worked with Dr. Fitz at the Defense Nuclear Agency, said Dr. Fitz excelled at analyzing problems.

"He was good at being a scientist and understanding what the important issues were," Dr. Witt-wer said. "He used a lot of imagination."

Dr. Fitz was awarded the Exceptional Civilian Service Medal by the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1974 and the Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service by the Defense Department in 1985.

He enjoyed sailing and raced and cruised extensively on the Chesapeake Bay. He was a member of the West River Sailing Club, the Annapolis Yacht Club and the Carolina Yacht Club.

He sang in the choir and was an active member of St. James Episcopal Parish in Lothian, where services were held yesterday.

Dr. Fitz had just completed a working scale model of an invention he called a "cylindropter," an aircraft with a unique rotary wing that allowed it to hover, fly vertically and horizontally and maneuver in limited space.

"The cylindropter was quite creative," Dr. Carpenter said. "He was that kind of person."

Dr. Fitz is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Virginia Kate White; a son, Harold Carlton Fitz III of Jupiter, Fla.; two daughters, Virginia Fitz Shea of Alexandria, Va., and Elizabeth Fitz Scott of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/27/97

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