David Hill, an entrepreneurial physicist who worked for Enrico Fermi during World War II and later wrote his doctoral dissertation under John Wheeler, died Dec. 14, 2008. He was 89.

Hill graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1942, after which he assisted Fermi (who had built the first nuclear reactor) from 1942 to 1946 at the University of Chicago. He then enrolled at Princeton and received his Ph.D. in 1951 with a dissertation on nuclear fission. He was an assistant professor at Vanderbilt before spending 1954 to 1958 at the Theoretical Physics Division of the University of California’s Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

Over the next half-century, Hill founded and operated several firms in scientific research and development. Among them was Nanosecond Systems Inc., which he headed from 1963 to 1972 and which made high-precision measuring equipment.  

Among his many other activities, for 30 years he was president of Harbor Research Corp., which was involved with patent enforcement and investments. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and also the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Hill’s wife, Mary, died in 1992 after 41 years of marriage. He is survived by three daughters and four sons, including John ’80 and Sandra ’86.

Graduate memorials are prepared by the APGA.

Graduate Class of 1951