Physics professor emeritus is hit by car



Physics professor emeritus Samuel MacDowell, 75, was hit by a car as he left mass at St. Thomas More Chapel on Park Street at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday.

MacDowell was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital and was admitted after X-rays and a CAT scan showed he had incurred a mild concussion and skull fracture, MacDowell’s wife Myriam said. She said he would spend the night in the hospital for observation and is in stable condition.

Fr. Bob Beloin, the chaplain at St. Thomas More, said he saw MacDowell lying in the street minutes after the two had spoken inside the church. Beloin said he learned from police and witnesses that the car had been travelling at 30 miles per hour when it struck MacDowell and the impact from the vehicle threw him into the air. He said two doctors and two Yale School of Nursing students who had been at mass attended to MacDowell until the ambulance came.

Myriam MacDowell said witnesses attributed the accident to the icy road conditions.

“[The accident] was very bad, but apparently he’s all right,” she said. “He’s been conscious.”

The Yale Police Department was not able to comment Sunday night. A representative of Yale-New Haven Hospital confirmed MacDowell was admitted, but declined to provide further details.

Beloin said MacDowell and his wife have been members of the church for many years and are weekly volunteers at the chapel’s soup kitchen, of which MacDowell is a co-founder.

MacDowell, who has worked at Yale since 1965 and recently retired, continues to teach undergraduate elementary physics sections and is popular among his students and colleagues, Physics Department chairman Ramamurti Shankar said.

“I am very concerned for his well-being, and I hope he gets better,” Shankar said. “He is among the most civil and cultured people I know.”

He said MacDowell is an expert in particle and gravitation physics and achieved international renown for his contributions to theoretical physics, including his invention of “MacDowell symmetry.”

A longtime friend and colleague of MacDowell, physics professor emeritus Charles Sommerfield, said MacDowell is well-known for his groundbreaking work in theories of supergravity and supersymmetry.

Sommerfield said MacDowell is well-respected in the physics community.

“He’s a very gentlemanly person,” Sommerfield said. “Everyone gets along well with him.”

MacDowell was admitted into the National Order of Scientific Merit for his contributions to science and technology development in the United States by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1998. The honor is the Brazilian government’s highest distinction in the field of science.

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