University of Texas
Bobby Neal Turman
February 6, 1944–November 29, 2010
Bobby Neal Turman was born February 6, 1944 to Robert Chester (1914–1998) and Ruth Blanche Carpenter (1912–2001) Turman in Fannin County, Texas. Bobby's sibling was Sherrie Elaine (Archer). Bobby's mother, Ruth, was a librarian. She and Robert were married for 56 years.
Bob Turman's story begins much as any farm boy's does, picking cotton, milking cows, building a laboratory in the garage... Yes, he grew up on the farm and he was proud of it, and that is where his dreams began as well as his love of science. He graduated from South Oak High School in Dallas, Texas in 1962. He was in the National Honor Society, Science Club and was a National Merit Semi-finalist. Following graduation he entered the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a BS in 1965. He was inducted into Phi Eta Kappa, the Freshman Honorary Scholastic Fraternity and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
His dreams led to a PhD in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin. His 1968 dissertation was entitled, Electron Scattering from Nitrogen Ions. His supervisor was Harold P. Hanson, then chair of the department. He became a life member of the Alumni Association.
On June 11, 1966, Bobby married Etheline Carol Haas in Dallas, Texas.
After receiving his PhD, Bobby did post-doctoral research at the University of Oslo Norway for a year and then returned to the University of Texas as a research scientist; however, the Air Force interrupted that work, and he served for 11 years rising to the rank of Captain and serving in Vietnam, conducting lightning research at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, work with NASA, was a physics instructor at the Air Force Academy, and studied nuclear powered rocket engines. He finished his career studying pulsed power and laser research for Sandia Labs for thirty years. He was deputy director at Sandia at the time of his death. This man, this scientist, this farm boy from Texas did a lot for his country but was also devoted to his family and friends.
Below are two comments by co-workers that describe Bobby's character and aspects of his extensive career.
"I remember him as Capt. Bobby Turman, Air Force officer, scientist, serving with AFTAC at Patrick AFB, FL. He was doing lightning research and actually is credited with coining the term "Superbolt" for lightning strikes, typically in the Sea of Japan, that were capable of creating waves that radiated out from the center of the strike and could swamp small fishing boats. Just knowing Bobby's name got me a job in the lightning lab at the University of Florida which was headed by Dr. Martin Uman, a world-renowned lightning researcher. I remember Bobby as soft-spoken and humble. In the 1970's, his work was written up in Scientific American where he gave credit to the airmen in the AFTAC satellite lab that provided a significant amount of raw data for his research. He truly served his country and the scientific community selflessly." Posted by: Kenneth Whiteleather - DeLand, FL - Coworker, Nov. 12, 2019.
"I enjoyed working with Bobby during the years we were designing and constructing pulsed power accelerators at Sandia, and especially during the early stages of work on PBFA II (now the Z machine) in the early 80s. Bob and I were colleagues in the area and our groups did many things together that advanced the state of the art. I remember how broad Bob's interests were and how thoroughly he thought things through—a nice combination. Peggy and I both recall being together at social functions with Bob and Carol. Bob left a record of accomplishments and good relationships throughout his career." Posted by: Don Cook - Washington, DC, DC - Colleague while at Sandia, December 05, 2010.
He was active in his Church, in his community and he loved his family very much. A few that have the honor and privilege to be a part of his life are his wife Carol, Brent and Dawna, Brandi and Gary, Christopher and Ashley, Savannah, Micah, Denali, Marissa, Sherrie and Chuck, Stan, Rita and Ron. To say that he had a positive affect on our lives would be an understatement. We will miss him. Memorial service will be Sunday, December 5, 2010, 2:00 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church, 201 University Blvd NE. Interment will be Monday, December 20, 2010, 11:30 a.m. at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Central United Methodist Church TV Ministry.
Below is an article from Sandia National News.
Bob Turman will be remembered for his absolute devotion to our nation’s security.
Bob Turman (5440) died on Nov. 29. He was 66 years old and had been at Sandia 30 years.
Bob was deputy director and senior program manager for Directed Energy Systems in Integrated Military Systems Development Center 5400. He was responsible for research and technology development over a broad range of applications for military and civilian uses of directed energy. He managed program funding of approximately
“Bob was a visionary,” says Sandia retiree Ken Prestwich. “He could always see possibilities of new technology. He was very thorough and articulate in his docu- mentation. Bob was very team-oriented and always positive.”
Ron Kaye (5445) says Bob loved physics. “He always
wanted to know how
it worked, why it
worked, and how to make it better. When we were working on pulsed power, he would say, ‘You might be making pulsed power, but you can’t compete with lightning yet.’
“One of the most significant experiences I recall was Bob’s work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on an urgent response team. The team was charged with developing an emergency capability for processing District of Columbia mail, and he spearheaded an implementation strategy to safeguard the mail nationwide against future anthrax attacks. Many projects here stopped in October 2001 as he pulled together the Sandia team to support DOE in the national response to the anthrax attacks. I was fortunate to have served on Bob’s team that supported that national task force. While working at the field sites, it was reassuring to hear Bob’s strong voice and technical leadership at the multi-agency telecons to Washington. When we had challenges in the field, I remember his careful listening, recommendations, and directive, ‘Make it happen.’ The national team developed the process, and the mail got delivered safely. Bob and his team won a 2002 Lockheed Martin NOVA award for the work.
“Bob fostered relations with the DoD R&D organizations,” Ron continues. “His message was clear: ‘How can we work with them and help them succeed with their initiatives?’”
"Bob loved gadgets, Ron says. On a trip to Arlington, Va., he and Bob had a GPS device for their car. “I also had a paper map,” recalls Ron. “The traffic was bad, but Bob knows the shortcut on the small residential streets. Uh-oh, school traffic guards, school busses, garbage trucks, but we’re not any closer to our destination. It’s time to get the GPS out. Don’t need a paper map. Now there are three of us in the car: Bob, me, and the lady inside the GPS. After four bad turns, he stuffed the lady in the GPS back in the bag, and said, ‘Where’s the map?’
“It was typical Bob; he was stressed but not angry. We arrived at our meeting in laughter. We had just shared a comical adventure. It was funny.
“The way he handled that little adventure was the way Bob handled his projects. When things did not work, he always found a positive aspect.”
Colleague Guillermo Loubriel (5443) says, “Bob was firm and caring; teacher and listener; focused and amiable. His contributions were national in scale.”
Ron remembers another aspect of Bob’s personality. “He loved the University of Texas Longhorns,” Ron says. “You could tell how they were doing in sports by the color of the shirts and ties Bob would wear. He was in burnt orange when they were doing well. He was a dedicated fan. He was also a defender of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Bob loved aircraft. If you mentioned an aircraft or space museum, Bob had been there. His sketches of aircraft ranged from doodles on meetings notes to framed wall hangings in his office. He also had a large collection of miniature aircraft models prominently on display near his desk that he was proud to show you."
“I will always remember Bob for his absolute devotion to this nation’s security. I will miss seeing the PULS PWR license plate on his car.” — Iris Aboytes, Sandia Lab News Vol. 62, No. 24, December 17, 2010.