By Emily J. Minor
BOCA RATON — Dr. Björn Nils Anders Lamborn, a prominent physicist who held a key role in establishing the Ph.D. program in physics at Florida Atlantic University, died Jan. 14 after suffering a bad fall following cataract surgery. He was 78.
In addition to his scholarly accomplishments, of which there were many, Dr. Lamborn was revered for his impressively dry sense of humor and an endless love for his Corgi dogs, said his sister, Ingrid Bortner, who lives in Baltimore.
“Growing up, he was always studious, always brilliant and he had an incredible sense of humor,” Bortner said.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a political writer and a mother who worked as a newspaper writer and translated children’s books from Swedish to English, Dr. Lamborn studied abroad for his younger years, then came to the United States when his parents bought a small newspaper in Winter Park and made Florida their home, Bortner said.
Dr. Lamborn first studied at the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in science. He then attended the University of Florida, where he — in just two years — earned a doctorate in theoretical plasma physics.
And he did all that by the tender age of 22.
His sister said Dr. Lamborn at the time was the youngest to get a doctorate in plasma physics, which is the study of nonlinear waves, the ionosphere and gases.
From there, her brother could have studied just about anywhere, she said, but he chose the burgeoning FAU, where he thought he would have a real hand in the development of the young college’s Physics Department.
And he did.
Dr. Lamborn joined FAU in 1965 — just four years after the college was launched — and worked to establish the college’s Ph.D. program in physics, which was approved in 1988.
Dr. Luc Wille, a colleague hired by Dr. Lamborn to help launch the department, wrote that his mentor leaves quite the legacy.
“By trying to articulate Björn’s contributions to the department, I came to realize how much he had accomplished and how much he meant to me,” said Dr. Wille, who also wrote that Dr. Lamborn’s “dry sense of humor and the twinkle in his eye livened up faculty meetings.”
As a final display of devotion to FAU, Dr. Lamborn left a $1.1 million endowment to establish an Eminent Scholar Chair in Theoretical Physics, and a $100,000 scholarship endowment for undergraduate physics students who are seeking a doctorate in theoretical physics.
“Dr. Lamborn was passionate about theoretical physics, his students, and Florida Atlantic University,” said FAU President John Kelly. “His most thoughtful and generous gift to establish an Eminent Scholar Chair and scholarship endowment within our Department of Physics will ensure that his dream, vision and legacy continue in perpetuity.”
Bortner said the circumstances of her brother’s untimely death were both odd and shocking. He was in Palm Beach Gardens, she said, getting eye surgery by a doctor they particularly liked. Dr. Lamborn stayed the night in the area because he had an appointment the next day. That evening, apparently walking to get a bite to eat, he stumbled while crossing a road, fell and struck his head. The fall was so bad that he broke his neck, she said.
Dr. Lamborn never married, but his sister said he loved her children and grandchildren as his own. In addition to his sister, he is survived by a niece, a nephew and five great-nieces and great-nephews.
Five Corgis also survived him, and they have been placed in loving homes, Bortner said.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Pembroke Welch Corgi Club of America. Established by Dr. Lamborn, this charitable foundation was created for the welfare of Corgis and other canines. The mailing address is PWCCA Charitable Trust, Attn: Adrienne Saffel P.O. Box 33, Versailles, KY 40383.
Also, contributions can be made to Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407.
By Emily J. Minor