Ronald Emerson Burns died of cancer at his home in Cambridge, Mass., July 25, 2003. He was 60.
Ron invented a computer-based X-ray detector for molecular analysis that provided a technological leap forward for the science of X-ray crystallography. He developed the detector in the 1980s after working at the High Energy Physics Lab at Harvard. Leaving Harvard with only a mental picture of how his detector would function, Ron worked for years in his Cambridge basement, designing and building the tools needed to construct the detector. In his spare time, he worked on and raced motorcycles.
Ron started the firm Xentronics to manufacture his detector. Xentronics was sold first to Nicolet, then to Siemens AG, which in turn sold it to Bruker AXS. Professor Stephen Harrison of Harvard Medical School used the technology to examine viral binding to cell surfaces and said, "The Xentronics detector changed structural biology in a significant way."
After successfully marketing his invention, Ron dedicated his remaining years to becoming an accomplished aerobatic pilot and instructor.
He is survived by his wife, Janet, son, Jason, and granddaughter, Ripley Burns. To them, the class extends its deep sympathy.
The Class of 1966