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Thomas F. Lyons, a longtime employee of the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS), died on Sunday, May 3, in Flagler Beach, Fla. He was 70.
Lyons started work at the LNS in 1957, at the MIT Synchrotron Lab and continued at the LNS for almost 50 years. He worked on many high-energy physics projects, most notably at MIT, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Those who worked with him spoke of his sharp wit and political acumen and said he could solve any problem involving the design and construction of equipment. He left his mark on all the experiments he worked on -- often with some clever solution to a tough mechanical problem. In collaborating with him, there was never any distinction between physicists and engineers.
"Everyone at BNL, from the telephone operator to the director, knew Tom," said Richard Yamamoto, a professor of physics who started his career at MIT at the same time as Lyons. "Tom was not just an engineer for the group, but at times he negotiated important plans and policies with the technical groups at BNL. Much of his success at these negotiations had nothing to do with political skills, but just good old commonsense, which Tom was full of. He was quick at convincing someone of the right thing, without churning the waters."
Preceding him in death was his son, Matthew Cory Lyons, on April 9, 2009. Surviving are his wife of 35 years, Suzanne O. Lyons; two daughters, Mildred Lyons and Susan Welch; six sons, Scott Lyons, Brett Lyons, Thomas Lyons, David Lyons, Mark Fitzpatrick and Kevin Fitzpatrick; two sisters, Joan Lyons and Joyce Swanson; a brother, John Lyons; and his mother-in-law, Constance Scott.