Jimmie Dave Doll, of Barrington
Jimmie Dave Doll was born on Oct. 19, 1945 in San Diego, Calif. His father, Dave Dean Doll, was stationed there in the Navy. His mother was Margie Elizabeth (Carpenter) Doll. The family moved to Carl Junction, Mo. when Dave’s stint in the service was completed. Jim’s mother was the first in her family to finish high school; Jim was the first in his family to go to college. Jim passed away on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
By the time that Professor Jimmie D. Doll, the Jesse H. and Louisa D. Sharpe Metcalf Professor of Chemistry was persuaded to join the Brown chemistry department in 1989, he was a figure nationally recognized for his fundamental contributions to computational physics and chemistry. His specialty, what he once called “randomly exact methods” in a paper with that title he wrote for Science in 1986, is the creative use of statistical and probability ideas to solve problems in chemical dynamics.
Jim Doll obtained a B. S. in chemistry from the University of Kansas in 1967 and a Ph. D. in physical chemistry from Harvard University in 1971. After a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Berkeley, he joined the chemistry faculty at SUNY, Stony Brook in 1973, receiving tenure within two years. In 1977, Los Alamos National Laboratory recruited him to join its own strong contingent pursuing basic science. There Jim remained for 12 enormously productive years before coming to Brown, rising to the level of Laboratory Fellow, being awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and being named one of “America’s 100 Brightest Scientists under age 40” by Science Digest.
The research areas that Jim has made an impact on over the years span quite a range of fields, but among his most famous contributions are those dealing with how molecules move around on, and scatter off of, the surfaces of materials, and how countably small clusters of atoms behave similarly to (and differently from) the larger collections that chemists are more accustomed to. He has also been a pioneer in developing statistical (“Monte Carlo”) methods, many of them while at Brown, for thinking about specifically quantum mechanical aspects of molecular motion and for simulating hard-to-study rare events. Throughout each of these efforts Jim’s work has been distinguished by a level of whimsical creativity that is unmistakably his signature: He entitled one paper “A Time for Noise,” and wrote other papers in which he pointed out how playing with such normally sacrosanct concepts as the values of fundamental physical constants and whether our world is really three-dimensional, could yield practically useful devices for solving vexing computational problems.
In addition to his scientific research, Jim was an outstanding teacher and mentor, a great friend, and a devoted husband and father.
Jim’s survivors include his wife of almost 51 years, Margaret Ann (Schreiber) Doll; his son, John Michael Doll; his daughter-in-law, Lesley Dalrymple Doll; and his grandson, Ryan David Doll.
The scientific summary was provided by the Chemistry Department of Brown University.