Grandson of a coal miner, Roger White was born on the 11th of January 1939, in Llwynypia, in the mining valleys of South Wales, UK. In 1955 at 16, he left his village of Llantwit Major in South Glamorgan after winning a five-year Student Apprenticeship at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) at Harwell, England. During this time, he became an avid rugby player in the Harwell Rugby Union Football Club, and known as “Taff,” a nickname for Welshmen that stuck with his friends in the UK even until 2018. One teammate from those days described him this way: “always in the thick of the scrum and a reliable and able teammate who I believe went on to be a great captain.” A perfect metaphor for the man.
Roger chaired the 1991 IEEE Pulse Power Conference and co-chaired the 1994 BEAMS conference, both in San Diego. In 2011 in Chicago, he won the IEEE Peter Haas Pulsed Power Award “For Outstanding Contributions to Pulsed Power Technology in Developing Programs of Research, Education and Information Exchange.” He served on the IEEE Pulse Power committee for twenty years and was Awards Committee Chairman in 1997 in Baltimore. He continued to work and be involved in his field until he was 73. He attended his last technical conference in San Francisco in 2013.
Endlessly curious, he loved to travel and would go anywhere at the drop of a hat, eventually visiting more than twenty different countries and countless states. In 2017 alone, he went to the Yucatan (twice), England, Alaska, New Mexico, and deep-sea fishing with his son Matthew. On an epic car trip with his boys in 1976, he drove cross-country from Washington, D.C., to San Diego via New York, Connecticut, and Canada.
Like his father, he always put in a vegetable garden in the back yard. He used much of the produce in his cooking, made marmalade, and bottled liters of tomato-basil pasta sauce to tide over the winters. He became an ambitious and always-experimenting cook, and in 2016 prepared an Indian curry dinner for 38 people to support a charity. Naturally, served in the back yard.
Forever a fast driver and auto enthusiast, he spent weekends for ten years lovingly restoring a 1963 E-type Jaguar from top to bottom, sharing a garage with Richard Miller. He became a classic automobile show judge, specializing in British sports cars at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance from 2013 to 2017.
At Harwell from 1955-1960, he trained as an electrical engineer while simultaneously attending Oxford Polytechnic, where he was awarded Higher National Certificates in both Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. AERE employed him in the Plasma Physics Division after he completed his apprenticeship. For AERE he worked on high-voltage switching, first at Harwell and then at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Laboratory when it opened in 1962.
In 1964 Roger immigrated to Canada with his family, and spent a year working on satellite systems for RCA in Montreal. He returned to high-voltage engineering at Ion Physics in Boston, where he was first introduced to nuclear-weapons simulators in the form of flash X-ray and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) systems.
Roger joined Maxwell Laboratories in San Diego, California, in 1967 and began a 35-year relationship with that company. Roger worked with many of the original thinkers in the field of pulsed power including Alan Kolb, Richard Fitch, Richard Miller, John Shannon, John Harrison, Bob Hunter and Jorg Jansen. He made contributions to the Blackjack series of simulators for the Defense Nuclear Agency, and EMP generators for the US Department of Defense and foreign governments. This led to field installation and commissioning of systems such as Casino at NSWC White Oak, Maryland, Empress II at Little Creek, Virginia, and systems in France and Germany.
At the same time, Roger managed up to forty people as Vice President in the Maxwell Engineering Department. This matrix organization prompted Roger to market and manage programs within the group, as well as to support the engineering needs of the entire company. His last major assignment before Maxwell sold its pulsed power systems business was to manage its group in Albuquerque and win a large contract at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
After the purchase by Titan Corporation in 2001 and Titan’s purchase by L-3 Communications in 2005, Roger directed the operation of the L-3 Pulse Sciences group in San Diego, originally Maxwell’s pulsed-power group. There the work changed somewhat to high-average-power systems such as particle accelerator hardware for the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge. But Roger was a loyal Maxwell Old Boy to the end.
He died on January 9, 2018, just two days before his 79th birthday. He is survived by his wife Julia Roth, his son Matthew and daughter-in-law Sherry, his sister Janet and brother-in-law David Knaggs, nieces Kate and Rebecca, three great-nephews, cousins in the UK and US, and former wife Gillian Ackland. His parents Percy and Annie predeceased him. His elder son Michael died in 1999.
Matthew will scatter Roger’s ashes from the deck of a long-range deep-sea fishing boat on the anniversary of so many of their annual trips together. The family will host a party to celebrate Roger’s life and love on Saturday, March 31, 2018, in the back yard of their home.
Carter Family on January 31, 2018