University of Texas
William Eckel Drummond
September 18, 1927–December 14, 2016



William E. Drummond

Bill Drummond was born in September 18, 1927, in Portland, Oregon, to James Edger and Blanche Black Drummond. James, born in Tennessee, was an insurance agent. Blanche was born in Iowa. Bill’s older brother, James E. Jr. (1924-2010) also became a PhD physicist. Their back to back plasma physics articles appear in Radiation and Waves in Plasmas by Morton Mitchner. Bill attended Grant High School in Portland where he was an outstanding tennis player, winning a number of championship. In 1942 he competed in the National Junior Boys Tournament. In 1943, he was ranked 3rd in singles and 2nd in doubles among Junior Men.

Following high school, Bill enrolled in Stanford University where he majored in physics. He graduated in 1951 and then enlisted in the U. S. Navy where he attended radar school. After his discharge he entered graduate school at Stanford. In 1953, he married Stephanie Jones, from Victoria, Canada. He had met Stephanie while visiting a friend in New York. His PhD was awarded in 1958. His thesis, Nucleon Correlations Effects in High Energy Electron Scattering, studied the effect of two-nucleon correlations on the scattering of high energy electrons from heavy nuclei using a high energy approximation due to Schiff. His brother, James E. Drummond, Jr., also a plasma physicist, had graduated there two years earlier. He next joined a research team at General Atomics, eventually becoming Director of the Plasma Turbulence Laboratory. It was there he met David Pines and Marshall Rosenbluth. A frame from a 1960 film, "Reaching for the Stars", made by General Atomic and the Texas Atomic Energy Research foundation shows Drummond (in the center) at GA. At right is fellow scientist, Nick Krall.

Unknown, Bill Drummond, Nick Krall

Two especially important papers are Nonlinear Stability of Plasma Oscillations, with David Pines, Nuclear Fusion, Vol. 3, 1962 and Cyclotron Radiation from a Hot Plasma with Marshall Rosenbluth, Phys. Fluids, 3, 1960. The paper with Pines is among the highest cited papers in plasma physics. Web of Science which includes only peer reviewed publications lists 259. Google Scholar, which includes books, dissertations, etc lists 531 cites. Numbers above 200 place a paper in a very select group of papers. His 1961 paper, (W.E. Drummond and D. Pines (1961): “Nonlinear stability of Plasma Oscillations, General Atomic” GA-2386 ), on the quasi-linear theory of weak plasma turbulence with Pines was the first systematic nonlinear theory of plasma turbulence.  Quasi-linear theory remains the reference standard to this day for the nonlinearly saturated state of linearly unstable plasma turbulence, a ubiquitous phenomenon in plasmas.  Even where the theory does not rigorously apply and is replaced by more precise theories, quasi-linear theory is the first estimate and common denominator for comparison.

Throughout his career, Bill was recognized as one of the nation’s premier theoretical plasma physicists and a leading authority in the field of non-linear plasma dynamics, plasma turbulence and plasma radiation.  He was a United States delegate to the first International Conference on Plasma Physics and Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion in Salzburg in 1961, an historic event at which every nation working on fusion weapons (H-bombs) agreed to declassify magnetic fusion research and share its results, and the Second International Conference at Culham, England in 1965. He was a member of the first international faculty of the Seminar on Plasma Physics at the International Institute for Theoretical Physics in Trieste in 1964 and a member of the plasma physics panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the early 1960s, Harold P. Hanson, then chair of UT Physics Department, approached Bill Drummond about Hanson’s plan to divert funds to UT that were currently provided General Atomic by a consortium of Texas Power Companies. Bill worked with Hanson to make the proposals to the power companies and to the university administration. By 1964 UT received some seed funds to accomplish the plan and Drummond had moved to Austin and begun recruiting bright young plasma physicists. His efforts ultimately resulted in two of the premier fusion and plasma physics centers in the nation, the Fusion Research Center and the Institute for Fusion Studies. He held the TAEFR Professorship from its establishment in 1983 until he retired.

In addition to his professor responsibilities in the university, Bill started a plasma physics related research company, Austin Research Associates (ARA). He hired a number of very bright young physicist and programmer. Included were Lee Sloan, Bobby Thompson, Vernon Wong, Barry Moore, John Uglum, David Hasti, George Bourianoff , H. A. Davis, T. P. Starke, B. R. Penumalli and George Caldwell. The focus of the company was the Auto-Resonant Accelerator. This work was among the earliest to attempt to use large amplitude plasma waves in electron beams to accelerate particles to energies achievable only in very long accelerators. Table-top accelerators offered much promise and continue to be a very active area of research today.

Bill loved sailing. He was a trustee of the Austin Yacht Club and among those responsible for the current club site.

Stephanie and Bill Drummond, 2014, Dallas, Texas (Photo contributed by their colleague and friend, Lee Sloan.)

Drummond Photo Album

James Green and William Drummond,
UT Tokamak, 1982
Bill Drummond, tennis star, The Sunday Oregonian, July 1942.
William and brother James Drummond
Bill Drummond, Tennis Team, 1942 Memoirs yearbook, Grant High School, Portland, OR
Top left is likely the tennis team, Not sure which is Bill Drummond or if he is in the photo.
Bill Drummond, University of Texas Cactus yearbook, 1983
Bill Drummond, University of Texas Cactus yearbook, 1983
Congressman J. J. (Jake) Pickle gestures as he talks with Dr. William E. Drummond (right), director of the Fusion Research Center. Looking on are Senator Phil Gramm (left); William F. Weldon (center), diretor of the Center for Electromechanics, and Presient William H. Cunningham of UT Austin. Occasion was the U. S. Army naming CEM a center of 'center of excellence'.