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March 21, 2002

OBITUARY: Wade Lanford Fite

Wade L. Fite, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, died Feb. 22, 2002, at his home in Fox Chapel. He had been suffering from heart and kidney failure. He was 76.

Following service in the Army during World War II, Fite earned his degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Kansas in 1947. While at the University, he met and married his wife, Ruby Rose Kaufmann.

He earned his doctorate in physics from Harvard in 1951. He then joined Philco Corp., and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1954, he received a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowship for study at University College in London.

Following his return from England, he briefly taught again at Penn before accepting a position with General Dynamics in San Diego. Because his work concentrated on upper atmosphere physics and space science, and because of his expertise in the physics of atomic collisions, his research contributions were especially relevant during the post-World War II period.

Fite joined the Pitt faculty in 1963. He served as a consultant to a number of government agencies, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Bureau of Standards, along with a number of defense organizations. In 1965, he became a fellow of the American Physics Society. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He retired from the University in 1988.

In 1964, Fite co-founded Extranuclear Labs, which built mass spectrometers and other scientific instruments. The company was formed when Fite and Ted Brackmann developed a reliable Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer power supply for their own research that caught the attention of other researchers. Fite served as company president until 1984 and chairman of the board until his retirement in 1990. The company is now known as ABB Extrel.

An accomplished oboist, Fite played with the Manila Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony, among others.

He is survived by three sons, Christopher, John and Andrew; a daughter, Rebecca; a step-sister, Peggy Brown; a step-brother, Jack Greer, and seven grandchildren.

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