Remembering JILA Fellow W. Carl Lineberger

Submitted by kennac on Wed, 10/18/2023 - 1:36 pm

Collage of JILA Fellow William Carl Lineberger 

Image Credit
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry/JILA

William Carl Lineberger, 83, loving husband, died on October 17, 2023, in Boulder, Colorado. Born in 1939, in Hamlet, North Carolina, Carl was the only child of Evelyn Pilot Cooper and Caleb Henry Lineberger. He is survived by his wife, Kitty Edwards, and his beloved dog, Jude.

Carl received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology and served in the Army Ordnance Corps during the Vietnam War. He was a teacher, mentor, and research scientist in the Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado, for 52 years. He was appointed by President Obama to the National Science Board in 2010 and served in that capacity until 2022. The American Chemical Society and the American Physical Society, both of which he was a member, granted him their top awards. In 1983, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences; in 2015, he received their NAS Award in the Chemical Sciences, given for both scientific achievement and benefit to humanity.

Carl Lineberger’s incredibly productive approach to scientific research derived from his unusual combination of expertise in chemistry and physics, together with his mastery of engineering. These complementary skills allowed him to attack new classes of chemical problems with his signature blend of elegance and precision. His unique perspective also enabled him to see connections in nature that could be overlooked by his contemporaries. Carl’s colleagues knew to listen especially carefully when he shared a seeming child-like view regarding some aspect of science, as it was then in fact that they might gain the deepest insights into nature’s inner workings.

Carl Lineberger’s enduring impact on the scientific community is broader than the important paradigms he contributed from his laboratory. He was described by a colleague as having been instrumental in creating the “magic” of JILA, a joint institute between the National Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Colorado devoted to research into the frontier interface between chemistry and physics. He molded a style of collaborative research starting in the 1970s that continues today.

Carl was not only brilliant, but kind. It was known that, however close he was to a proposal or other deadline, if a troubled student, staff member, or colleague knocked on his door, he would drop everything to listen and try to help.

His sense of humor was present to the end. In his final days he was asked if he had any regrets. He smiled and quipped, “Maybe I should have spent more time hang gliding.”

Carl will be remembered not just for the heights of his science, but for the depth of his humanity.
A Celebration of Life for Carl Lineberger will be held on January 6, 2024 in Boulder, Colorado. For information, contact Krista Beck

If you wish to honor Carl, you may make a donation to the University of Colorado Foundation and designate it for JILA at

Please contribute any memories or photos of Carl to this memorial page. 

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