Dr. James Hillier, 91, of Princeton, who developed the first operational electron microscope in 1938, died January 15 at the University Medical Center at Princeton.
As a graduate student at the University of Toronto in 1938, Dr. Hillier and fellow student Albert Prebus designed and built a microscope that, instead of a beam of light, passed a beam of electrons through a specimen. The device magnified the image 7,000 times compared to only 2,000 times achieved optically. Dr. Hillier also engineered a method for mounting specimens that would leave them undamaged by the process.
After obtaining a master's degree (1938) and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (1941), Dr. Hillier joined Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Camden, where he developed the first commercially available electron microscope and led a long and successful career including the development of RCA's videodisc, a precursor to the DVD. Through decades of scientific invention, he rose through the corporate ranks to become Executive Vice President for Research and Engineering and Senior Scientist at RCA in 1969. He also served as the director of the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton.
Dr. Hillier held 41 patents for devices and processes, but none affected the course of medical research as profoundly as the electron microscope. From sweeping microscopic topographies of mitochondria and neural synapses to the elaborate lattice superstructure of insects, Dr. Hillier's invention offered scientists and lay people alike a window into the inner organization and composition of the unseen world almost down to the atom. The electron microscope has developed significantly since its first designs, today achieving magnification of over two million times, but each generation of the instrument has been based on the original operational principles pioneered by Dr. Hillier.
Dr. Hillier's contribution was felt most powerfully in the biological sciences, enabling much of the current knowledge of organic structures. After receiving a joint award from the American Public Health Association and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation for medical research in 1960, Dr. Hillier told a reporter from Time magazine, "The electron microscope is like the monkey wrench on the garage wall; what you do with it is the important thing."
Born in Brantford, Ontario to James and Ethel Hillier (née Cooke), Dr. Hillier's scientific aptitude won him a scholarship to the University of Toronto. There he met and married Florence Marjory Bell, who died in 1992 after 55 years of marriage. The two had attended high school together in Brantford where they were academic competitors. The romance blossomed when they both attended the University of Toronto.
Mrs. Hillier owned and managed the Flower Basket in Princeton, and later two additional flower shops in Princeton. Both were passionate and talented artists. James made photo-realistic pastels and drawings, while Florence was an abstract artist and an award-winning flower arranger. They had two sons, the architect James Robert Hillier of New Hope, Pa., and William Wynship Hillier, a television producer, who died in 2002.
Dr. Hillier was a strict father who imparted a strong work ethic and an artisan's love of craft to his sons. "He was humble, very humble," said his son Robert, founder of Hillier Architecture, "but he was inwardly also very proud." The younger Hillier continued, "He was very close to my mother and supported her flower business to the extent of building all of the display cabinetry in the stores in their early days. Then, after he retired, he would help her out by delivering flowers for her. Just imagine a major corporate executive enjoying his retirement helping his wife by delivering flowers. That is pretty devoted and pretty humble."
In addition to his oldest son Robert, Dr. Hillier is survived by two sisters, May Hillier of Brantford, Ontario and Thelma Henshaw of Naples, Fla.; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother John "Jack" Hillier.
After retiring from RCA in 1977, Dr. Hillier focused his attention on the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, and, later, The James Hillier Foundation for Science Education, dedicated to funding the college education of scientifically oriented students. He once admitted, "I would probably never have gone to university if it had not been for a scholarship I received." He firmly believed in the importance of science and scientific education for the good of mankind. In 1993, he established the James Hillier Foundation, which awards scholarships each year to science students from Brant County, Ontario. Frank Matthews, a friend of Dr. Hillier's father, James Sr., helped organize the first "James Hillier Day" in Brantford in 1990. He said, "Have no doubts that this man is a genius with outstanding abilities. He just also happens to be a wonderful humanitarian."
Dr. Hillier received numerous accolades, awards, and honorary degrees from New Jersey Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto. A public school in Brantford, Ontario has been named in his honor. He was one of the first scientists elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 1997, along with economist John Kenneth Galbraith, he was made Officer of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor. Both men were the first Canadian-born U.S. citizens to receive the award.
Burial will be in Brantford, Ontario. A memorial service will be held at the David Sarnoff Library at The Sarnoff Research Center in West Windsor at 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 25.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the James Hillier Foundation, 34 Hill Avenue, Brantford, Ontario, Canada, N3R 4HI.
Arrangements are under the direction of The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home.
Richard Hodapp Appleby, 77, of Toms River and St. Augustine, Fla., formerly of Princeton, died January 10 in St. Augustine, Fla.
He was the proprietor of the Turney Motors Dodge dealership in Princeton for more than 20 years. He later owned and operated Smarts Motor Court in Lincolnville, Maine for more than ten years before retiring to Toms River and St. Augustine.
Born and raised in South River, N.J., he graduated from Rutgers University and was a United States Navy veteran of the Korean War.
He was a member of the Union Church of Seaside Park, N.J., St. Johns County (Fla.) Audubon Society, and the Holiday City Deborah Chapter.
An avid fisherman who enjoyed bird watching with his wife, he also enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.
Son of the late J. Randolph and Bessie Hodapp Appleby, he was predeceased by his siblings Betty Chando, Ted Appleby, Bob Appleby, and Carol Clark. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Margaret Turney Appleby; six children, Richard of Dayton, N.J., John of Princeton, Beth Sabo of Fairhope, Ala., Holly Coffey of Monmouth Junction, Thomas of Andover, Mass., and Timothy of Orlando, Fla.; three brothers, Bud, Jack, and Don Appleby; a sister, Kay Blonsky; and ten grandchildren.
A memorial service was held on January 20 at Old Tenant Presbyterian Church, Tenant, N.J. Burial was in Old Tenant Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Union Church of Seaside Park, 47 4th Avenue, Seaside Park, N.J. 08752; or to the Community Bible Church of St. Augustine, 3150 U.S. 1 South, St. Augustine, Fla. 32086.
Arrangements are by the M.J. Murphy Funeral Home, 616 Ridge Road, Monmouth Junction.
Giovanna Iacono, 89, of Princeton, died January 15 at the University Medical Center at Princeton.
Born in Ischia, Italy, the daughter of the late Lucia and Vito D'Ambra, she had been a resident of Princeton since 1959.
She enjoyed gardening, cooking, music, and especially being with friends and family.
Predeceased by her husband, Fabio Iacono, she is survived by a daughter, Lucia Iacono of Princeton; two sons, Anthony of Lawrenceville and Mario of Pennington; a sister, Maria of Ischia, Italy; and seven grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated January 19 at St. Paul's Church. Interment followed in St. Paul's Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Paul's Church.
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