Dr. Lawrence H. Bennett, a former research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1996 to 2019, passed away on Dec. 30, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 91.
Bennett was considered a pioneer in the magnetics research community and played a critical role in advancing a new field of research that explored the use of nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR, to detect cancer. This work would later lead to the widespread use of NMR, renamed Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, to non-invasively detect differences between normal and tumorous tissues in the body.
Born in Brooklyn, Bennett received his bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, his master’s degree from the University of Maryland and his doctorate degree in physics from Rutgers University. After graduating from Rutgers, Bennett went to work for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), formerly the National Bureau of Standards, where he headed the Alloy Physics and Magnetic Materials Group. In 1971, the Department of Commerce bestowed on Bennett its Gold Medal Award—the highest honor bestowed by the Department on individuals “for their distinguished and exceptional performance”—related to his research on the electronic properties of metals and alloys. He also conducted research on, among other things, magnetic refrigeration, for which he held a U.S. Patent.
In addition to his research appointment at the George Washington University, Bennett also taught at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University. While at GW, Bennett was part of the engineering school’s Institute for Magnetic Research, which largely conducted research at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus. He collaborated closely with his magnetics colleagues, including Professor Edward Della Torre, who passed away in 2019, Professor Emerita Martha Pardavi-Horvath and Professor Can Korman.
“He was well respected and a loved member of the magnetics research community, and he will be missed,” Korman said of Bennett on learning of his passing.
Members of GW’s magnetics research group taken at the magnetics research lab at VSTC in the late 90s. Bennett is seen with glasses and beard (back right), alongside Della Torre (far right), Korman (front, far left) and Pardavi-Horvath (front, second from left). Former students Ann Reimers (middle, center) and Pattana Rugkwamsook (front, center) are now professors at UVA and King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thailand respectively.
ECE Assistant Professor Amir Aslani also worked closely with Bennett while earning his doctorate.
“Dr. Bennett advised many PhD and MS students,” Aslani said. “I was one of those lucky ones. He was very passionate about research and extremely supportive of his students, and therefore, besides being a great mentor to me, I always respected and loved him like my own caring grandfather.”
In addition to his many accomplishments, Bennett authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications. He was a Fellow at both the American Physical Society and the American Society for Metals, as well as a member of the IEEE Magnetics Society, the Metallurgical Society, Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.
Bennett is survived by his wife, his three children, his sister-in-law, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.