Professor Jorge Ramiro Antillón Matta, Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Sciences and Humanities, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, died February 6, 2020, in Guatemala City at the age of 88.
Professor Antillón was born April 14, 1931, in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, in Guatemala. He was the son of Ricardo Antillón-Escobar and Raquel Matta de Antillón. He was trained as a Civil Engineer in San Carlos University, Guatemala, graduating in early 1955, and as a Sanitary Engineer at the Universidad de São Paulo, Brazil, graduating in 1956.
In the 1960s, while helping students with their physics, he developed an interest in the teaching of physics. He next attended Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in education in 1967. He obtained his PhD in physics in 1976 in a joint program of the Universidad del Valle and the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Robert N. Little, a president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, was his supervisor at the University of Texas.
Professor Antillón served as head of the Physics Department at the Universidad del San Carlos de Guatemala. At San Carlos, he organized the Physics Department at the Escuela de Formación de Profesores de Enseñanza Media, (EFPEM), the School of Teacher Training for Secondary Education. During this time, he also organized the first Central American course in Physics (CURCAF), a highly successful annual session of short, intensive courses in physics for those faculty who, for financial reasons, were not able to leave the country for further training in physics. He was a founding member member of both the Guatemalan Physical Society and the Central American Physical Society. He also served as head of the Physics Department at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, later becoming dean.
In June 2013, Professor Antillón received the Francisco Marroquín Order for Lifetime Achievement in Physics Education from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education.
In 2017, he received special recognition from the Faculty of Medicine of the Universidad of Francisco Marroquín for his dedication to the teaching of physics and mathematics. He was co-author of a number of papers associated with medical research and science education. He also wrote an elementary physics book and a book on the uses of solar energy.
During much of Dr. Antillón’s career, opportunities for physicists in Guatemala were very limited and salaries were low. Often this required trained physicists to have several jobs. Dr. Antillón would take on private home construction projects using his civil engineering training and physics knowledge. During a visit by one of us (MO), after the 1976 major earthquake, Dr. Antillón was asked why his home suffered so little damage in contrast to many nearby homes. Ever practical, his answer was, “I built this home to San Francisco Building Code standards.”
Jorge Antillon was a man of integrity, of keen insight, of sound judgement, of love for his country and a devotion to its improvement and the enhancement of its science and science education. There is much evidence today to support the conclusion that he was successful in achieving his goals.
He is survived by his wife, Miriam Avi de Antillón, a daughter, Gisella, a bi-lingual secretary, and three sons, Ricardo, a painter-pianist-educator-physicist, Jorge Eduardo, an architect, and Federico, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist.
Jorge Antillón Album