R. Stephen Berry (1931 - 2020)

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of R. Stephen Berry on July 26, 2020. He will be deeply missed in Telluride and around the world.

Berry co-founded TSRC with Peter Salamon in 1984 with one meeting and 18 scientists. Now attracting over 1,400 scientists annually, TSRC gathers together the world's brightest minds to ponder fundamental questions at the root of the world's greatest challenges.

"Telluride and TSRC are very important to each other," said Berry. "We scientists have always felt connected to Telluride and the wilderness surrounding it." He believed that scientists need to give themselves space and time to think, and there's no better place to be inspired than in the soaring Rocky Mountains.

Steve was an extraordinary man. His scientific contributions were vast, including work on measuring electron affinities, understanding structural transitions in clusters of molecules, and finite time thermodynamics. He was a pioneer of life-cycle energy analysis, and his impact on public policy is incalculable.

TSRC is proud to be among the lasting legacies of R. Stephen Berry.

If you would like to contribute an image or a memory in honor of R. Stephen Berry, please email info@telluridescience.org. To donate to the R. Stephen Berry Postdoctoral Fellowship Fund, please click the donate link below.

Berry Remembered

Telluride Daily Planet, TSRC Remembers Steve Berry

University of Chicago, "One of the Most Influential Chemists of his Generation"

Hyde Park Herald Obituary, "Stephen Berry, 'Genius' chemist and clean energy advocate, is dead at 89"

The Journal of Physical Chemistry, 2002, Biography of R. Stephen Berry

He was in good company from the start: "Regeneron / Westinghouse Science Talent Search, Finalist 1948"

UChicago News, "Chicago pollution inspired scholar’s career as chemist and environmental activist"

"R. Stephen Berry Tribute Symposium, 2015 "

University of Chicago, Irene C. Hsiao, The Chemists Club, Winter 2017 "We Can Do It Ourselves:: R. Stephen Berry Talks Macro-to-Micro, Thermodynamics, and Environmental Policy "

Peter Salamon – TSRC Co-founder, Professor at San Diego State University

Steve Berry showed me that doing science was fun. In Steve’s world, science usually came mixed with hiking or skiing in lovely locales, Telluride providing the ultimate choice.

Steve taught me how to question a scientific presentation to the point where the audience can carry off several juicy problems as homework. This was the workshop style that Steve, Bill Reinhardt, and I incorporated into the early TSRC workshops. Steve’s favorite part was always the wrap-up, where he would gleefully fill all available boards with the open questions left in the workshop’s wake.

As a first-year graduate student looking for an advisor, I wanted to work on the differential geometry of thermodynamics. When I approached Steve Berry, he responded in typical Steve style with a question, “While you’re at it, can you put time in?” It was spring of 1973 and our collaboration on finite-time thermodynamics had begun. It continues to this day. It was only recently that I learned how he had been thinking about finite-time thermodynamics long before our collaboration, but somehow never mentioned that part. I think he did not want to steal the thunder from Bjarne Andresen’s, Abe Nitzan’s and my contributions.

Steve’s originality of thought was broad-ranging and his many trailblazing endeavors often brought him in opposition to accepted dogma. His strength of conviction arguing with countless rejections and referees was an important example for me and for anyone with trailblazing on their mind.

Steve’s generous spirit and good nature, as well as his exceptionally accommodating family made the members of his academic family and even colleagues feel like they fit right in. I wonder how many small children, besides my own pre-schoolers, thought Steve and Carla were their grandparents. The membership in the academic Berry family started with the annual group parties and led eventually to the decadal Berry Fests. We were all hoping to celebrate his 90th, but alas, that is not to be.

We will all miss Steve greatly but at least we got to share the ride.

Wendy Brooks – TSRC's Founding Administrator, Founder of Telluride Academy

Sunday July 26. Noon. I open my facebook page and there it is:
R. Stephen Berry. 9h.
My wonderful life has ended.
I passed peacefully in the presence of my family.
Live well and believe in Science.

He was so old and so vibrant that we thought he might live forever, encouraging the best in each of us as he was wont to do.

If there are architects of the “new Telluride”, R. Stephen Berry would be named one of them. As a companion to music festivals, we have a strong science presence. Workshops that initially hosted single digits now host thousands and feed the summer economy in a healthy and robust fashion. I was in the Telluride Academy office at the Telluride School -the era of one building for K-12 and Camp Telluride in the summer. Two interesting looking men walked into our humble office. They said they were scientists from the Aspen Institute and they wanted to start a summer research center down here in Telluride. It would be a bit different from the Aspen Institute in that all levels of scientists would gather together. Post docs would listen to full professors and then they and captains of industry would listen to the post docs: scientific research would be advanced more rapidly when three generations of researchers from the four corners of the world collaborated.

The men were also interested in our computer lab (the only one in a high school in western Colorado, designed and staffed by the THS math teacher Irwin Witzel): six Macintoshs and a dot matrix printer. Finally, Dr. Berry and his associate Peter Salamon were firm believers in the ability of scientists to think more clearly and farther outside the box when they were alone on high mountain trails in remote corners of the Rockies. Or fishing the streams that flowed through town. And Telluride had these assets. And the Academy could serve as their administrative wing. And so the Telluride Summer Research Center was born. In the summer of ’84, 7 scientists inaugurated Colorado’s new think tank for theoretical physicists and chemists with a three-week long workshop on finite-time thermodynamics. It was so well received that the group decided to host three workshops the following summer.

A decade later a thousand people from academia and industry and from Asia, Europe and North and South America attended one of perhaps twenty different workshops. Mini workshops for Telluride Academy campers and community lectures were offered by various visiting scientists. On the 4th of July, the scientists routinely joined the parade, offering up floats and marching groups that represented the absurd and surreal. They often won the coveted blue ribbons. Stephen Berry and Peter Salamon were often present and their presence was always felt. They thrived in the success of this new model.

When the TSRC folks arrived for the summer, they always brought cutting-edge technology for us to share. They brought the first fax machine that anyone in Telluride had ever seen. School and government officials would knock on the door of the Academy office asking permission to send an important document quickly to a faraway place. They had cell phones before the rest of us did and “portable” computers to say nothing of a myriad of programs that they generously shared.

In 1989, Dr. Konopka and colleagues held one of TSRC and America’s first workshops that sought to decode DNA; they spent three weeks in the Sheridan Hotel, courtesy of Grant McCargo exploring this intriguing new field of study. Years after on the fourth of July the lunar module landed on the moon; parts of it were built by the robotics team that was marching in the parade that morning. When a successful landing was announced, the whole parade shouted for joy. Stephen held the leadership role for many years, approving workshops and determining areas for expansion. At the same time, he was primarily a full professor at the University of Chicago and an advisor on nuclear “issues” with President Ronald Reagan. His wife, Carla taught science education to future teachers at Roosevelt University in Chicago and then began teaching summer workshops called Science Detectives for Telluride Academy third graders.

Steve and Carla were a huge presence in Telluride for several decades. They would spend 4-6 weeks in Telluride town and up on Sunshine Mesa where the family camped on their holdings in the hourglass meadow and down at the old dairy barn. Stephen loved to don his old waders, climb in his classic blue jeep and fish the local streams – always thinking about his science. He organized excursions for visiting Asian and European scientist friends, often with Rowdy Rodabush up on the west meadow.

He was a Renaissance man of the finest breed and a friend and mentor to thousands in the global scientific community. Stephen had a way about him that friends will always remember. Stephen gifted Telluride with an identity that has only grown over the years: as a center for serious scientific study.

Jack Simons – Founder of the TSRC Telluride School of Theoretical Chemistry

In 1972 I submitted a research proposal to NSF titled "Theory of the Electron Affinities of Small Molecules". It got funded after one round of consideration but the main referee did not like the title because I was really developing a theoretical METHOD (now called Equations of Motion Method) for directly calculating electron affinities. I am pretty sure that referee was Steve, but I never asked him about it. Nevertheless, this taught me a lesson I still struggle with- to be precise with one's words.

In the early 1970s, Steve was one of the only theory people from the chemistry community studying negative ions, so my start in this field was built very much upon his shoulders and I learned very much from studying his work.

In the 1980s, Steve's Telluride workshop environment helped me broaden my skills a bit into the field of molecular dynamics when I attended my first TSRC event. Steve called the young hot shots in the field "chaos kids" because at that time they were introducing the concepts of chaotic motions into chemical dynamics. The people who taught me a lot on this topic include Rick Heller and Bill Reinhardt.

I know Steve has accomplished much more than I am mentioning, both in science and in leadership, but I want to thank him personally for the great influence he had on my career in its early years.

Thanks for listening,
Jack Simons

Bill Reinhardt – Professor Emeritus, Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle and Second President of TSRC

The TSRC gets Started!

Why didn’t Carl Lineberger and I want to help Steve start the TSRC in the early 1980s? Carl and I were close friends, Professors of Chemistry, and also Fellows of JILA (a world class quantum institute a joint enterprise of NIST and the University of Colorado, or CU), and we both knew Steve well. Steve tried to convince Carl to move to the University of Chicago: they were both interested in atomic electron affinities, among many other things. In return, when Carl and I were co-chairs of Chemistry, in Boulder, 1977-1980, we tried to get Steve to move to Boulder to Head CIRES (an Environmental Sciences Institute co-sponsored by CU and NOAA). We almost succeeded!

The three of us were often in Aspen, Steve and Carla having a home there, and Carl and I sharing his Condo, all making use of the facilities of the Aspen Center for Physics, especially its Library, where Steve ran workshops, and was also on the Board of Directors. Carl and I used Aspen to escape the Chemistry Chairmanship for a few months each summer, to get papers and proposals written, and to let our minds wander into new areas., Aspen was only a slightly more than three-hour drive from Boulder, at least in the summer, and what a lovely drive.

But suddenly things changed! Aspen Physics (…a great error….) decided that Steve’s work in Thermodynamics, beginning to move into Finite Time Thermo, didn’t belong in Aspen. After all, hadn’t everything worth knowing about Thermodynamics been worked out in the 19th Century? So, Steve, with his former student and close colleague Peter Salamon, started talking about setting up a new Theory Center, focused on Chemistry, and Chemical Physics, in Telluride. Would Carl and I switch from Aspen to Telluride to join them? We could run workshops there.

At that moment, with Carl owning that Condo in Aspen, and our use of Aspen being the freedom to write and think, with the support of a fine Library (computers not being what they are now….), and not to run workshops. And we didn’t want to turn a 3-hour drive into 7 or 8 hours, as Boulder was so much closer to Aspen. This was not an issue for Steve (from Chicago) or Peter (from San Diego), so for both either Aspen or Telluride were a long way from home, and only worth the trip to undertake serious business, and long-term stays. So, Carl and I said, “no way,” but thanks and good luck!

But then, suddenly things changed again. My wife Katrina and I had moved to The University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in the spring of 1984, and three life changing events took place almost at once! Frist we realized that for all the intellectual and cultural values of Philadelphia, summers were just “Too Darn Hot.” Second, I (with no prior expectation of this at all) was appointed Chairman of Chemistry, a rapidly changing and growing department, with the Chair seriously involved in fund raising, and many other interactions with the University as a Whole, not just Chemistry. So, I would need an escape plan, one that included science, and a break from city life for our two young children. I wanted them to see, and become a part of “Wilderness,” not just “City Life.” Thirdly: Peter Salamon, also unexpectedly and magically, showed up at our house for dinner one night in Philadelphia, and said that he and Steve were dying for me to start a Chaos Theory Workshop in Telluride! Well, Telluride was now a Town of a Different Color, and we immediately agreed that I’d start a new workshop and spend a month in Telluride starting the Summer of 1985.

Chaos theory was a very young and new part of Theoretical Chemistry in 1985, coming out of Math and Physics, where even there it was a new and developing direction. It was in organizing and holding that first Chaos Theory workshop in Telluride that I realized exactly how unusual and special the programs that Steve and Peter envisioned were, and that their views fit exactly into what was needed to get Chaos Theory well developed and well placed in both Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry.

Here is where Steve and I really became friends, as I learned that his view of a “workshop” was totally unique. I’d, of course, been to summer Gordon Conference, where cutting edge research was presented in the mornings and evenings, with afternoons free for intense informal discussion, and, or course, a walk or two for relaxation. But Steve’s thoughts about what a Workshop at the TSRC might be were of a completely different nature! The purpose of a Berry Workshop was not to talk about past accomplishments, but to think out, and plan, for the future of a discipline, or sub-discipline, which did not yet exist. Why was it needed; how would it be defined; what problems should be attacked first, answered by long argumentation about which were most important; how should those first attacks should best proceed. Could the work be divided up, so that workshop members & their groups could work in parallel during the regular academic year, and then return the following summer to Telluride to put the parts together?

In those days Telluride was wide open, not yet gentrified, quite inexpensive, so the majority of workshop participants, in those early days, could easily be, and were, graduate students, postdocs, new young faculty, with only here or there a more senior person, to facilitate, but not even necessarily lead those discussions. The local organizer and facilitator of our existence in the Town of Telluride, was the wonderful Wendy Brooks, well connected to the local public-school system, and just founding and starting The Telluride Academy, an out of doors program for young children, and they were happy to take on ours, even though they were only 3 and 5 years old! So, we were at once hard at work, free of a large part of looking after our own children, and intellectual imagination our priority. Wendy lived across the street from our summer rental house, and a block behind her was Elaine Fischer, artist, political activist, who was to serve on the Town Council before becoming Mayor of Telluride, and then County Commissioner for four terms. The Steve, Peter, and I and the TSRC worked closely with Wendy and later with Elaine so as to become part of the fabric of intellectual life in a Town, already well known for skiing in the winter, and many Art and Music and Film festivals in the summer, the last of these now of great international fame.

So, Steve had picked the perfect place for a fledgling young scientific organization; the TSRC had no special outside funding to get started, as we were fortunate enough to be in a perfectly affordable place.

But interestingly in that first summer of 1985, I was only slowly to discover that Steve and Peter had a fortuitous additional reason for having invited me to start the 3rd TSRC workshop in that particular summer: they would both be on Sabbatical over the 1985-86 academic year, and thus absent for the summer of 1986! So, their question was: would I be willing to become President of the TSRC, and keep things running over that next year and summer workshop season. So with their help and blessing I became President for the period 1986-89, at the end of which time the size of summer program had well more than tripled. For example, my small Chaos Theory Workshop or 8 to 10 young theory students, had evolved to a full workshop of almost 40, and consisting of as many experimentalists as theorists. We’d indeed founded and defined a new part of physical chemistry. Peter and Steve’s own workshops had been taken over by their younger protegees, from Denmark and England, and a large, and largely separate, group of folks from Los Alamos National Laboratory, just a few hours away in Northern New Mexico, had started an independent series of workshops on robotics and artificial intelligence, or AI. So, we stated “public lectures,” open to all workshop groups, and also to the interested general public too, knowing that that would keep things from becoming too technical. Turned out that some of that AI was very interesting indeed. These small and informal public lectures continued, but also gave birth to the R. S. Berry Public Lectures, and Pinhead as well, held up at the sparkling new Mountain Village auditorium, and most often attended by hundreds of summer visitors, to the delight and pleasure, as well as the actual learning about new facets of science, of all, including the lecturers.

Peter later told me that they both had feared that they might return in the summer of 1987 and find that all had disappeared. But then Steve and I, by 1988, were already discussing the downside of success: with larger numbers, suddenly completely free-from discussions became lectures with question and answer sessions following. Still, we had the beauty of Telluride to pull us all outside, and there the independent and free ranging discussions would continue.

Bill Reinhardt
Professor Emeritus, Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle
Second President of the Telluride Science Research Center
September 1, 2020

Gregory A. Voth – Professor at University of Chicago and Director of Chicago Center for Theoretical Chemistry

This is my favorite picture of times with Steve. It was from 1985, the second year of Telluride workshops. Bill Reinhardt had added a second workshop to Steve’s on chaos and nonlinear mechanics. I was lucky enough to be able to attend as a third-year graduate student from Caltech. I recall Steve being incredibly kind and warm and accepting of me as a lowly grad. I was 26 years old at the time….the clock has certainly ticked on.

Steve will be missed in Chicago very greatly and no doubt by TSRC and all of you.

Best wishes,
PS-My recollection is that our climb was to the peaks above Alta Lakes.

Berry Images

Please click below to view images of R. Stephen Berry.

Berry Image Gallery, TSRC

Berry Image Gallery, Wales Group

Local Legacies

Town Talks:  In 1991, R. Stephen Berry and Peter Salamon started the TSRC Science Lecture Series to reach out to the community and share some of the extraordinary science that occurs at TSRC. Talks were geared toward a community audience to engage the local community and help increase the understanding of the value of the work that happens at TSRC as well as the understanding of how the scientists benefit from and appreciate the Telluride environment. The name of the talk series has evolved through the years and is now know as the Telluride Science Town Talks. To honor Berry, each year the TSRC Board President selects a speaker to give the R. Stephen Berry Lecture. Steve himself gave the inaugural R. Stephen Berry lecture in 2003 with a talk titled “The Deepest, Simplest, Most General and Most Puzzling Science: Thermodynamics.”

Pinternship Program:  After years of supporting local interns through an NSF grant, Berry backed the creation of a local internship program, now known as the Pinternship Program managed and supported by the Pinhead Institute. In 2006, Berry was the first scientist to accept and host a Pintern. Today, the program offers approximately 30 internships per year in a wide variety of interest areas.

Punk Science: To inspire and engage local and visiting children, Berry launched the weekly Punk Science program in 2007 under the auspices of the Pinhead Institute. Each summer, TSRC scientists contribute kid-focused presentations that open eyes and minds to the possibilities of science. The popular program now often attracts over 100 children per week.

Steve's Reflection, 2007

"The first workshop that became the origin of the Telluride Science Research Center (then the Telluride Summer Research Center) had as its topic Finite-Time Thermodynamics," wrote Steve. "This is an extension of traditional thermodynamics whose stimulus were the questions, 'Is it possible to define and construct analogues of traditional chemical potentials - natural limits to the performance of systems - for processes constrained to operate at finite times?' After all, the traditional potentials are based on the ideal, 'reversible' processes that operate infinitely slowly, hardly a useful limit for any real system. If it is possible in principal to have such finite-time limits, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for constructing them? How can they be evaluated? How can we find processes that approach those limits? The motivation for this approach was very specifically finding ways to achieve better efficiency in the use of energy, ways that would allow us to make and use things with significantly less energy than we have been using for those purposes. Still further behind that was a motivation to reduce the impact of our energy-using activities on our environment, on the extent we pollute the air and water, or damage ecosystems, even on how we affect climate. The first Telluride workshop was by no means the first to address this topic; for example, there had been prior workshops at the Aspen Center for Physics on the subject.

"The origin of the idea of TSRC was in 1983, when we'd had a very successful workshop at the Aspen Center for Physics on Finite Time Thermodynamics. It was so successful that some people wanted to have another in 1984. We'd had one in 1981 in Aspen, I believe, and we could have had one in 1985, but, if my memory holds, we couldn't get a slot at the Aspen Center for Physics for 1984. At least we couldn't get one at a time when people could come. Then Peter Salamon said this, or something close to it, to me, 'We both know Telluride and like it. Why don't we try to have a workshop there?' I thought that was a brilliant idea. I said I would be very happy to help, but that Peter would have to take prime responsibility for the organizing. We held that first Telluride workshop for three weeks, and it was indeed a great success. We decided to have at least two in 1985, one on finite-time thermodynamics and one on clusters, and maybe a third. Bill Reinhardt had just moved to Penn, and we thought perhaps he was a bit homesick for Colorado, where he'd been before the move. Indeed, he liked the idea and organized a workshop on chaos for 1985, so there were indeed three that year. Wendy Brooks did all the local arrangements. I think that was the first year that her son Darius was the general helper. It was that year, I believe, when we formalized the structure into the Telluride Summer Research Center. I will have to check my files to see when Moshe Shapiro, from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, asked 'Why is it the Telluride SUMMER Research Center? Why not the Telluride SCIENCE Research Center, with meetings in the Winter, too?' The answer then was that the only available venue was the old school in the summer months. Happily, that's all changed now.”

October 16, 2007, R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago James Franck Distinguished Service

25th Anniversary - Steve's Reflection, 2009

In 2009, TSRC commemorated 25 years with a collection of memories from TSRC scientists. Below is Steve's reflection.

R. Stephen Berry Postdoctoral Fellowship

R. Stephen Berry believed strongly in the importance of diversity in science. From the start of TSRC in 1984, Steve made sure to include scientists in various stages of their career with the understanding that more minds from different perspectives are likely to bring about answers more quickly and more creatively than an homogenous group. In honor of Steve's commitment to postdoctoral participation at TSRC, the R. Stephen Berry Postdoctoral Fellowship will fund registration and related meeting expenses for awarded postdoctoral researchers. If you would like to contribute to the R. Stephen Berry Postdoctoral Fund, please click the donate button below. Thank you for your support.

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Post Office Box 2429, Telluride CO 81435
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Email: info@telluridescience.org
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