When he was enrolled in school, Dr. Jon Hardy Shirley was interested in mathematics. However, it was not until he attended college when he understood that mathematics was more about proving theorems than applying the subject to solve practical problems. He then discovered that physics involved the direct application of skills to solve problems, and thus he delved into the realm of physics.
Earning a bachelor’s degree and PhD in 1957 and 1963, respectively, Dr. Shirley was first hired by the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colorado, as a physicist after earning a doctorate, and maintained that role for a decade. He then served as a research associate first at the University of Colorado Boulder and then at the University of Helsinki in Finland between 1974 and 1976. Since 1978, Dr. Shirley has dedicated his expertise to several institutions as a consultant. For two years, he consulted for the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, now known as JILA, and since 1983, he has consulted for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Dr. Shirley has contributed approximately 40 articles to professional journals during his successful career, and he is a patentee of modulation transfer spectroscopy. Maintaining affiliation with several scientific organizations over the years, he is proudest of being the principal author on a detailed paper regarding primary frequencies standards, alongside two co-authors. Likewise, his PhD thesis was published in the Physical Review Journal and since its publication, his thesis has been heavily cited by scholars over 1,000 times.
As a testament to his longevity and achievements in physics, Dr. Shirley earned the Rabi Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2002. Married to his wife Lou Ann Wulf since 1975, he is the proud stepfather of four stepchildren and has two siblings, Frank Shirley and Emily Castner.
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