In Memoriam - Jim Hunt (1933-2020)

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2020

Written by Bob Brooks

Dr. Jim Hunt
Professor Emeritus James L. Hunt

The department mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus James L. Hunt who died peacefully on October 5 and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.  Born in Guelph, Jim took his first degree at Queens, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. in physics at the University of Toronto.  He started his career as an assistant professor at Memorial University (1959-63) and became a founding member of the department when the University of Guelph was established in 1964 having been hired by OAC the previous year.  His interest in our department’s history led to the publication of Wisdom from the Past: Physics at the Ontario Agricultural College 1877 to 1964, published by the University of Guelph.


Jim’s early research interests involved the infrared spectra of gaseous and solid hydrogen and deuterium and the latter led to a later collaboration in the 80’s and 90’s involving proton-irradiation of the solid hydrogens at the McMaster Tandem Accelerator Laboratory. In the 70’s he worked on polymer research with Jim Stevens.  His hands-on approach to laboratory physics made him one of the most sought persons in the department for students with mal-functioning equipment.  He supervised 6 Master’s students and, along with a colleague, effectively co-supervised 5 doctoral students and over his career published over 70 research papers.

Jim’s teaching interests were broad and even more inventive than his research.  Along with others he developed the course Physics for the Life Sciences and was co-author of the text book. He did the same for the energy course being co-author on the text Energy, Physics and the Environment.  He developed two distance education courses and one of them, Astronomy, was noted for its pioneering use of computer interaction in the 90’s.  He published several pedagogical papers, on various topics, in the American Journal of Physics.  He was awarded the OCUFA Teaching award in 1976.  He was also the initiator of the two-way video classroom between our university and Waterloo in the early 80’s when analog electronics made that a challenge.  Its success was pivotal to the success of the joint graduate program with Waterloo which started at the same time.  For all of these efforts he was awarded the University Medal of Merit in 1999.

After retirement in 1998 Jim became a specialist in anamorphic art, a technique for hiding an image when viewed naturally which becomes apparent when viewed at an acute angle or through a carefully prepared distorting mirror.  In the seventeenth century the technique was performed graphically and Jim was able to interpret the method and produce descriptive equations which allowed computer interpretation of works of art whose unfolding mirrors had been lost.  He then spent ten years of his retirement translating from French the core book on the subject, Curious Perspective by Jean-François Niceron which has been published by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  He created three anamorphic displays seen on campus and one in downtown Kitchener.  His battle with Parkinson’s disease affected his mobility and speech but his mind was active to the end and he will be sorely missed by family, colleagues and friends.  A memorial service will be held next year when conditions permit.

Find related news by keyword

News Archive