Clifford C. Klick

[ Age 88 ] At Johns Hopkins, he worked on an artillery fuse that played a key role in World War II air defense

October 16, 2006|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN REPORTER

Clifford C. Klick, who helped devise one of the weapons credited with helping the Allies win World War II, died of myelodysplasia Oct. 9 at the Fairhaven Continuing Care Retirement Community in Sykesville. He was 88.

Dr. Klick, born in Strausstown, Pa., graduated first in his class from Muhlenberg College in 1939. Immediately after school, he taught physics for a year at the college, which honored him with an alumni achievement award in 1962.

In 1941, he began graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he left school for the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. There he worked with a team that developed an innovative air defense weapon, the proximity fuse for artillery shells.

According to Hopkins, the fuse was one of a handful of key technologies that helped win the war. Dr. Klick received an award from the Navy for his wartime efforts.

He earned a master's degree in physics from Harvard University in 1946. In Boston, while taking dance lessons, he met Ruth Cleverly, who would become his wife of 59 years.

He studied solid-state physics at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology as a Westinghouse Research Fellow and received his doctorate in 1949 for work on the mobility of electrons in diamonds.

Later that year, Dr. Klick joined the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, from which he retired in 1978.

His daughter Sue Klick of Mechanicsburg, Pa., said her father was happiest in the lab. "It was definitely the lab work, the pure science," she said. "He had an interesting combination of a love for life and an ability to look at things very logically."

At the research lab, Dr. Klick became an expert in the field of luminescence in solids, writing numerous articles on the subject.

In 1964 he served as a visiting staff member at London's Imperial College, taking his family overseas to tour Europe in a minibus.

He was named head of the research lab's optical materials branch in 1965, then directed more than 100 scientists as superintendent of the solid-state division from 1968 to 1977.

He received a Navy award in 1960 for developing a system for measuring radiation exposure, and, also that year, the Scientific Research Society of America's Pure Science Award. He won the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award in 1973.

As dedicated as he was to research, Dr. Klick was just as passionate about the arts and culture.

"He was by no means a cold scientist," his daughter said. "He very much believed in God. The more he got into science, the more he believed in God - how fascinating and complicated everything was."

Dr. Klick loved music, poetry, art and the theater - heading with his wife to symphony performances, art shows and plays several evenings a week.

He and his wife sang in church choirs and also at Fairhaven, where they started a play-reading group. The Klicks moved to Fairhaven from Chevy Chase in 1993.

"He was an incredibly warm, affectionate father, and I guess the biggest thing for me was how he didn't judge people," his daughter said. "He saw the good in everybody."

Services were Friday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by three sons, John Klick of Washington, David Klick of Chelmsford, Mass., and James Klick of Mandeville, La.; two other daughters, Ruth Rudberg of Ludvika, Sweden, and Karen Frye of Leesburg, Va.; 17 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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