Indrek Martinson, Emeritus Professor and Director of the Institute of Atomic Physics at the University of Lund Sweden and former chair of the Physics Section of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (and Adjunct Professor at the University of Toledo), died unexpectedly on November 14, 2009. 


Indrek was born on December 26, 1937 in Tartu, Estonia. Estonian had been independent since 1918, but during World War II it was occupied by Russia, then by Germany, and then again by Russia.  With the second Russian occupation, the Martinson family was forced to to leave their home and become refugees in Germany.   At that time World War II was still raging, and Germany was under heavy Allied air bombardment. During one air raid the Martinson family had a narrow escape.  A German soldier warned them that the bomb shelter nearest them was unsafe, and advised them to hurry across town to another more securely protected shelter. This was good advice, as the nearer shelter was totally destroyed in the bombing.


Indrek began his research as an assistant at the Nobel Institute of Physics in Stockholm, working under the directorship of Manne Siegbahn on beta- and gamma-ray spectroscopy. Interestingly, in a 1964 nuclear physics experiment, Indrek and a coworker set a lower limit to the lifetime of the proton that subsequently became a test of weak interaction theories.  In 1968 Professor Ingmar Bergström, then director of the Nobel Institute, suggested that Indrek investigate the field of time-resolved fast ion beam atomic spectroscopy, which was being developed by Stanley Bashkin and William Bickel at the University of Arizona.  An exchange program was arranged whereby Professor Bickel came to Stockholm, and Indrek spent a year working in the Tucson laboratory. 


After a very productive two year visit to Tucson, Indrek returned to Stockholm, at which time the Second International Beam Foil Conference was arranged by Indrek,  Jan Bromander, and Gordon Berry.  The Conference was held in June 1970 in Lysekil, on the west coast of Sweden.  By that time the field had greatly expanded, with many laboratories actively involved and many new measurements obtained.  In addition, the lifetime studies were now complemented by fine- and hyper-fine measurements using coherent excitation and quantum beat methods.


Indrek described the work to Manne Siegbahn, who became intrigued by the possibilities of atomic structure studies using accelerators. Siegbahn asked Indrek to inform him whenever he found new and interesting results were obtained. Thus, at least once each month Indrek met with Professor Siegbahn to go over the latest results. 


In 1976 Indrek was selected to occupy the Professorship at the University of Lund that had been vacated by the retirement of Bengt Edlén (earlier this chair had been occupied by Janne Rydberg).  As professor and director of the Atomic Physics Institute at Lund, Indrek brought about a merger of traditional high wavelength resolution metrology with fast ion beam time-resolved measurements, laser- and tokamak-produced plasma studies, synchrotron radiation measurements, and Fourier transform spectroscopy.  He and his coworkers made pioneering measurements of doubly-excited states, developed quantum beat techniques that yielded unprecedented accuracies in lifetime and fine-structure measurements, devised ingenious methods for directly observing forbidden transition rates through differential lifetime measurements, and made measurements that have altered accepted elemental abundances in the sun and stars.


In addition to his own contributions, Indrek also created an atmosphere of international cooperation through which many individuals and techniques have been brought together.  He took a leading role in forging links between western scientists and their counterparts in Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, China, and Japan. These contributions have been recognized in many ways, with the most poignant occurring in 1991, when Indrek was invited to return to the city of his birth to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Tartu.  He also received the Estonian White Star Order, and was elected a member of the Estonian and the Lithuanian academies of science.


Indrek’s life was rich and varied, emerging as a refugee in war-torn Europe to become an eminent scientist and distinguished professor, and to oversee the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.  In addition to his abilities as a physicist, Indrek had an intense interest in and knowledge of music and sports, and was a highly ranked chess player. When international chess masters visited Stockholm, Indrek often entertained them, and was able to hold Bobby Fischer to a draw. 


Indrek was a very gifted and imaginative scientist, a great humanitarian, and one of the kindest and most personable people that we have known. He is mourned by his wife Evi, daughters Liisa, Tiina and Maria and their husbands, and three grandchildren.