Ricardo D. Rodrigues (1951-2020). Exceptional human being and true polymath.
Antonio Ricardo Droher Rodrigues (Ricardo to his colleagues and friends) passed away two years ago, on January 3, 2020. Ricardo led the projects and construction of the two synchrotron light sources built at the Brazilian National Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), an entity now belonging to the National Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), Campinas – São Paulo state, Brazil.
Ricardo graduated as a Civil Engineer in 1974 at the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba-UFPR, began his scientific activities in 1974 in the X-Ray Optics Group of the Physics Department at UFPR and performed his doctorate in Physics from 1976 to 1979 at King’s College, University of London, UK. In his thesis work “X-ray optics for synchrotron radiation” Ricardo proposed and characterized nearly parallel double-crystal X-ray monochromators for suppression of harmonic components, which are now used in many synchrotron light laboratories around the world. In 1977 he carried out the tests of these monochromators in Hasylab (Hamburg), thus being the first Brazilian to use a synchrotron light source.
Soon after his return to Brazil in 1981, Ricardo actively participated in the Synchrotron Radiation Project (PRS/CNPq) developed at the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF), Rio de Janeiro, from 1980 to 1985. The PRS was the precursor project that led to the creation of LNLS in 1986. As part of the PRS activities, a group of Brazilian scientists led by Ricardo did a three-month stay at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), in Stanford, USA, during which they developed a conceptual project of a 2-3 GeV synchrotron light source, which later was the initial LNLS project.
Shortly after the LNLS was created in 1986 in Campinas, Ricardo was appointed Project Manager. During a total period of 10 years, he implemented the initial basic infrastructure, trained the young technicians and engineers of his team and developed the various actions that led to the construction and successful operation of the first light source of LNLS – with an electron energy of 1.37 GeV – called UVX. The construction of the UVX source was completed in 1996 and opened to external users from Brazil and abroad in July 1997, thus providing scientists from numerous areas of science with a modern instrumentation that only exists today in few countries in the world. At that time, UVX was the only synchrotron light source in the Southern Hemisphere and even today the LNLS is the only National Laboratory in Latin America equipped with asynchrotron light source. Ricardo’s qualities of clear leadership, extreme dedication and unquestionable competence, both scientific and technical, were of fundamental importance for the successful development of the first Brazilian synchrotron light source. In addition to Ricardo’s decisive role in the construction of the first LNLS light source, he also actively participated in the development of new scientific instrumentation for several beamlines. The UVX source operated satisfactorily and was extensively used for 22 years, until 2019, by more than 6,000 researchers, mainly Brazilians and also from other countries.
In 2001, with the UVX synchrotron source already working routinely, Ricardo decided to move away from LNLS and created the company Skedio Technologies in Campinas, where he started the production of precision industrial instrumentation and also devices of artistic interest. He remained at this company until 2009, when he received and accepted an invitation from the LNLS board to return to this institution and face the second major challenge of his professional career: the design and construction of the second Brazilian synchrotron light source (Sirius).
In 2009 Ricardo assumed the role of Sirius Project Leader with the mission of designing and building a fourth-generation 3 GeV synchrotron light source with light emission qualities much superior to those of the UVX source. At that time, the only synchrotron source in the world with this exceptional quality was in the design phase in Sweden. The construction of this modern source presented numerous engineering challenges, many of them without precedent in Brazil and abroad. However, Ricardo and his team overcame these problems by applying in many cases local solutions. Thus, the first X-ray beam produced by the 3 GeV Sirius source was emitted in December 2019. Sirius is the third state-of-the-art (fourth-generation) synchrotron light source now operating in the world, after the existing ones in Lund (Sweden) and Grenoble (France). In this way Ricardo as Sirius Project Leader achieved the ambitious goals of the project and thus won the second great challenge of his career.
Ricardo demonstrated a clear leadership capacity, extreme seriousness and recognized competence both as a physicist in the area of X-ray optics and in different areas of engineering: civil, mechanical and electrical-electronic, with emphasis on the subareas of electrical circuits, magnetics and electronics.This multi-faceted competence allowed him to efficiently act on all relevant technical aspects associated with the construction of both LNLS light sources and demonstrated his leadership respected by all his team. Notably, Ricardo was not only a respected leader, an excellent physicist and a competent engineer in several specialties, he also demonstrated artistic sensitivity and competence as a sculptor and painter. This shows that Ricardo possessed all the typical characteristics of a true polymath. That is to say, his multifaceted competences were not merely those exhibited by “generalists”, but the ones demonstrated by rare and distinguished human beings who have deep knowledge in the different areas in which they work.
Ricardo’s work was unanimously recognized by the LNLS team and user researchers who knew him. He also received formal honors from the Brazilian Society of Crystallography in 2000 and from LNLS/CNPEM on the occasion of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the LNLS, in 2017. In 2010, he received a distinction from the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil that designated him Commander of the National Order of Scientific Merit.
I had the privilege of following Ricardo’s work for over more than 40 years. Our first meeting was at the XI Congress of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) held in Warsaw in August 1978, during which we talked about the new scientific possibilities opened up by the availability of synchrotron light sources, which were still in their infancy in the world at that time. From 1981 to 1986 my interaction with Ricardo was mainly at CBPF, in Rio de Janeiro, during the development of the Synchrotron Radiation Project, from 1987 to 2000 at LNLS, in Campinas, during the construction of the UVX source, from 2000 to 2009 at the company Skedio Technologies, and finally, from 2009 to 2019, again at LNLS. Our last conversation was during the last week of December 2019, in which he told me – serenely and with contained satisfaction – that the electron beam in Sirius reached its nominal 3 GeV energy and the first experiments by users were carried out. Sadly, Ricardo passed away on January 3, 2020, just a few days after having won the second big challenge of his professional life.
Two years have passed since Ricardo’s death. We physically lost an exceptional human being, a distinguished master, a brilliant physicist and engineer, and a sensitive fine artist. Ricardo’s legacies for Brazilian science are the modern Sirius synchrotron light source open to users from all areas of science from Brazil and abroad, the competent team of engineers and technicians from the LNLS that he formed and the large community of LNLS
users who benefited from the results of his work. His example of life and unique personality continue and will continue to live in the memory of all those who have had the privilege of knowing him and had followed his fruitful work. Ricardo’s death mourned Brazilian science and engineering.
After his death, LNLS/CNPEM honored Ricardo by naming its annual school on applications of synchrotron light as Ricardo Rodrigues School of Synchrotron Light, and organized, on November 9, 2020, a Ceremony of Tribute to Ricardo Rodrigues. In this ceremony, family, friends and colleagues presented emotional testimonies with memories and personal visions about Ricardo’s life. In the final part, B-MRS honored Ricardo by delivering a plaque engraved with the words: The Brazilian Society for Materials Research (SBPMat) honors Ricardo Rodrigues’ fundamental contribution to the successful development and implementation of Brazilian synchrotron light sources UVX and Sirius, which put Brazil at the forefront of materials research. All the testimonies presented (in Portuguese) at the Tribute Ceremony were recorded and can be accessed through the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrmTDdnyv9s
Aldo F. Craievich
Institute of Physics
University of São Paulo