MIT’s first microprobe built by R. Ogilvie’s students (left-to-right ?, Flanagan, Ogilvie, Nixon, ?, Colby, ?, Ziebold)
John Colby passed away in March. I first met John in 1969 when I was at RPI in graduate school working with our MAC probe. I had heard about MAGIC, a computer ZAF correction program coming out of Bell Laboratories, then in Allentown PA, and contacted John, its author, to ask for a copy on punch cards to run on our IBM 360. He readily complied, and that was a start of what turned out to be a long friendship and occasional business relationship. John was lured away from Bell Labs by Kevex Corporation a few years later, and soon John and his MAGIC put Kevex firmly on the map, most notably in Japan, where he became very appreciative of the Japanese culture and collected many Japanese artifacts. John and I had the opportunity to work together for a brief time at PGT (now Bruker) and then later with his new EDS quant program called FLAME, based loosely on Fuzzy Logic and incorporated by Scott Davilla as part of the 4Pi EDS package. Later John developed SLICE, a very clever EDS database search and match program done with FBI funding under the auspices and in close cooperation with Dennis Ward, a chemist and SEM expert working in Quantico.
John and I had some very good times together, and I would often meet up with him when he and his wife Susan, who survives him, lived in Foster City (CA). At that time, I had started Peak Instruments and was visiting Silicon Valley frequently, seeking and supporting customers using the Peak Spectrometer for the analysis of borophosphosilicate glass (BPSG), a dielectric layer used in chip technology. John and I would often finish our dinner with a nice cigar. I remember one instance, when we were enjoying a cigar together on a bench in Palo Alto, during which we learned from two policemen in a cruiser, lights flashing, that smoking anywhere in Palo Alto was against the law. Fortunately, they let us off with just a warning.
John was a prolific software creator and an accomplished algorithm developer. John was one of the founders of the Microanalysis society and one of the contributing authors on the first “Goldstein book”, which has become a bible for electron beam microanalysis. Later, he became somewhat of a maverick in the scientific microanalysis community, seldom publishing and letting slide his associations with other elite developers in the field. Possibly because of this, John may not be well known among the current MAS and EMSA memberships. Just last year, however, John was recognized for his contributions to electron beam microanalysis by being made a fellow of MAS.
I am sure I can speak for Scott and Dennis when I say that I will miss J.W. Colby, the stubborn man with the very creative mind, and know that the Microanalysis community has truly lost some magic.