CSA Remembers Bill Shields 1936 – 2018

We regret to report that William “Bill” Shields, co-founder of Janis Research Company and longtime friend of CSA, died July 13 at age 82, after an extended period of declining health.

Shields founded Janis Research in 1960, working part-time building liquid helium transfer lines and growing the business to manufacture cryogenic research equipment ranging from simple liquid helium storage dewars to sophisticated superconducting magnet and ultra-low temperature systems.

Included here are tributes from his friends and colleagues.


Bill Shields was a memorable force in the cryogenics community. He steered Janis wisely and led it into a prominent position in the industry. I always looked forward to meeting him at the various conferences as he was very affirming and encouraging to CSA and to me personally. I valued his comments and assessments of what was important and newsworthy at each conference. He certainly provided a lot of good cheer and camaraderie to the Cryomafia gatherings. He was missed after his retirement and we greatly regret his passing.Laurie Huget, Executive Director, Cryogenic Society of America

Ann Carroll and Bill Shields at his retirement party, January 2009.

Ann Carroll and Bill Shields at his retirement party, January 2009.

I met Bill about 30 years ago, while I was a 19-year-old working at Janis part-time during college. He was more than just the president of the company I worked for. He was more like an uncle and mentor. He always listened to my marketing recommendations. We both started work early and would discuss topics from bird watching to high energy physics.

I remember lots of laughs at Janis with Bill. He had a lot of affection for the Bobb brothers and it was very entertaining to watch them interact. For one of Bill’s birthdays we had Ed Bobb take a photo of Bill’s feet in the bathroom stall and created a special Boston Herald cover story. How many company presidents would find that amusing? I still smile thinking about how Janis would receive magazines for “Neville Dorkish” and other less PC names as Bill’s pseudonyms.

Bill was very thoughtful and generous. We would regularly donate blood together, usually at the American Legion in Burlington, MA. Bill had a very much in demand blood type and donated tens of gallons of blood over the years. One time I was taking my morning walk and noticed a pigeon laying on the ground. I thought it had broken its wing. Bill drove me to a local animal hospital during work hours, so the pigeon could be helped since I was afraid a hawk would kill it. (It turns out the pigeon was only in shock and its wings were fine.) How many company presidents would do that?

Bill Shields was larger than life, but down-to-earth. I have missed him since he retired. It was always a joy to see him at Janis clambakes after that. Looking back at photos, he was always smiling and often making “bunny ears” behind people’s heads. Memories of Bill will always bring a smile to my face.
Ann Carroll, Marketing Specialist, Janis Research Company, Inc.

I joined Janis in late 1993 after a quick interview by Bill at Harvard where I was working as a post-doc. Since then, we became good friends. As a Janis employee, I admired his passion, knowledge, and vision on cryogenics, his constant pursuit of new technologies and better products and his tactics of business operation. As a friend, I valued his integrity, kindness, and sense of humor. He will be missed.Zuyu Zhao, Executive Vice President & Principal Scientist, Janis Research Company, Inc.

“I’m sure that I speak for all those who knew him when I say that Bill will NEVER be forgotten!”Scott Azer, Vice President of Business Development, Janis Research Company, Inc.

How sad to hear that Bill passed. He was unique and memorable. Bill sent me a birthday card every year, even from Maine. I will miss his thoughtfulness.Mary Kaufold, Materials Research Society

Sorry to hear the sad news. I collaborated and received advice from Bill for many years. It was such a productive and fun relationship. He will be missed.Victor Wang, Lake Shore Cryotronics

I remember his warm smile and gentle nature. …My condolences to Bill’s family and everyone at Janis.Koji Nishi, Vice President, Niki Glass Co., Inc. (Japan)

I am terribly sorry to hear about Bill’s passing away. There are not the words to express my deepest condolences. He was a truly great global leader and I was proud to have been his business partner.Yoshitane Miyasaka, My Sciences Company, Ltd. (Japan)

I am saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. His influence in the cryogenic community extended far beyond Janis Research. I first met Bill at the Janis/SHE/Lakeshore/American Magnetics/Cryogenic Associates Hospitality Suite (the original Cryo Mafia) at a Chicago APS March meeting many, many years ago. Bill became a friend and somewhat of a mentor during my days at SHE. He was always someone in whom I had absolute trust. Bill was amazingly knowledgeable and always willing to give help when dealing with customers in common, for general cryogenic questions and even personal advice. I will miss his friendship.Robert “Bob” L. Fagaly, Honeywell, Inc.

Bill was truly one of a kind and it was our pleasure to have known and worked with him.Sharon Okada, Cryogenic Control Systems, Inc.

My sincere condolences go out to all our friends at Janis. Bill was indeed one of a kind. I can only imagine how you all feel. It’s already bringing back a FLOOD of memories to me…. Very strange to be both sad at the news of Bill’s passing, and at the same time unable to get the smile off my face. I wish I could be confident of having the same effect on people when I go.Mike Coffey, Cryomagnetics

Bill-san’s energetic style always comes to mind. His contribution to the cryogenics world was huge, and everyone will not forget it. He will always be with us.Chie Okamoto, Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI), Ltd. (Japan)

It is very, very sad news for me. Although last time I met Bill-san was more than 10 years ago, I still remember him and our time of collaboration. Actually, since I started to work at Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) in 1991, my job history has always been with our 4K-GM cryocooler, although my role changed several times. My history in SHI has always been with Janis. I met Bill-san several times, and always appreciated his warm and collaborative work with us. When I was working in SCEG (2004-2008), Bill-san came to Germany every year to support Cryophysics GmbH at the German Physics Show. We worked together while operating Janis’ cryostat with Sumitomo’s cryocooler, and it was always a very exciting time for us.Atushi Onishi, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Japan)

Zuyu Zhao and Bill Shields after the 2014 Janis Clam Bake.

Zuyu Zhao and Bill Shields after the 2014 Janis Clam Bake.

I only met Bill a handful of times at conferences, but he was one of the old school of the cryogenics world, and a real character who demonstrated his passion to those he met.Phil Pickering, Oxford Instruments (UK)

Please allow me to extend our condolences to the entire Janis team. We know that the hole these enormous personalities leave, not just on our businesses but in our lives, is very difficult to fill. Fond memories do make the healing process easier. Bill was an amazing man, a pioneer in our community and someone we are all better for knowing. We’re here if you need us.Tabitha Sebastino, Cryomech Inc.

Bill was one of the first cryogenic people I met when I started doing trade shows in 1982. I thought he was my mortal enemy and a competitor. Turns out I was very wrong!Vincent Grillo, Cryofab, Inc.

“La belle orange” is how I always remember Bill Shields. He was always an early arrival to the cryogenic conferences and I could always find him, often at the bar, where a quick glance identifying me always led to a warm welcome, a firm handshake, a big smile, and a won’t-take-no-for-an-answer invitation to join him for a drink. What a powerful presence, friendly, knowledgeable, eager to help, and unceasing in identifying new opportunities for cryogenics and its fare. He was the pioneer in introducing the small 0.1 W Sumitomo cryocooler to the US cryoelectronics community and generously lent Hypres his first unit to evaluate. This is now the standard for packaged niobium-based digital circuits. Back to “la belle orange.” I learned from Bill that this was a low-volume production brand of an exquisite orange liqueur from France, similar to Cointreau. I have never forgotten the elegance of that phrase which I have since then associated with all the friendship, competence, effectiveness, and business savvy of Bill. He will be missed and always remembered fondly.Elie K. Track, ret., Hypres

I knew Bill Shields very well for a very long time. I first met him shortly after he co-founded Janis Research in 1960, a few years before I joined MIT. The great majority of experiments in high fields were carried out at low temperatures. This meant we had a need for cryogenic equipment—transfer lines, storage vessels, and especially research cryostats. Bill’s company could furnish all of these and he was a master at convincing one that Janis could provide the best value, combining technical know-how with personal charm and certitude. So began three decades of my facility stocking up with mostly Janis cryogenic equipment, an enterprise constantly reinforced by, as Janis’ Scott Azer wrote, Bill Shields’ “commitment to customers and quality.” One of a kind.Larry Rubin, retired manager, high magnetic field facility at MIT’s Francis Bitter Magnet Lab

[Losing Bill] feels like the loss of a family member. He was willing to take suggestions from anyone. I was able to convince him to develop systems with cryocoolers, in addition to the liquid cryostats he was using at that time. I took up Janis coolers, which we sold here successfully. I remember lunches with him during my several visits to Janis, with Bill always asking for Coors. He was very helpful, jovial and friendly. Whenever I see Janis, he is in front of me. I shall miss him for a long time.Vinod Chopra, Goodwill Cryogenics

For more tributes and photos, visit http://www.janis.com. ■