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Dr. Michael Ross Murphy

Obituary for Dr. Michael Ross Murphy

June 3, 1945 - August 5, 2018
San Antonio, Texas | Age 73


Dr. Michael Ross Murphy, research scientist, passed away on August 5, 2018, at the age of 73. He was born June 3, 1945, in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Murphy strived for excellence throughout his life and never shirked from difficult tasks.

In 1967 he married his college sweetheart Janet Eleanor Fearn, and they had two children, both of whom made him intensely proud. He is survived by his wife Janet, and by his daughter Shannon Jean Zelinski and her husband Neil Robert Zelinski of Fremont, CA, with their two children April Fearn Zelinski and Kara Michelle Zelinski. He is also survived by his son Kevin Michael Dale Murphy and his wife Rachael Anderson Murphy of Westminster, CO, with their two children Arthur Michael Murphy and Willa Jane Murphy. He is also survived by his half-sister, Joyce Hudson Schlossbauer of Kirby, TX.

Dr. Murphy earned a B.A in Psychology from Occidental College in 1967 and received his Ph.D. in Psychology and Brain Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972. He did post-doctoral work as a Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution, and as a Staff Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health (1972-1982). He conducted field research in Syria, Israel, and Romania. His field trip to Syria in 1971 with his wife resulted in the historic first successful capture of wild hamsters since the first specimens were captured in 1940. Dr. Murphy was the world's foremost expert on hamsters, important in medical research. At this time, he jokingly called himself a neuroosphreseolagnomesocricetologist, one who studies the brain structures for olfaction and natural behavior in hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Two of his many publications were important cover articles in the journal Science. Dr. Murphy enjoyed foreign travel and working with foreign colleagues; over his lifetime he visited 79 foreign countries.

In 1982 Dr. Murphy began his career working on medical protection for chemical weapons toxicity for the Air Force in San Antonio, first as contractor/manager with Systems Research Laboratories and later with the US government. He joined the US Air Force Research Laboratory in 1989 and was Chief of the Radio Frequency Radiation Branch from 1994-2004 and directly contributed to studies on the biological effects of millimeter waves and high peak power pulses. Dr. Murphy became the Scientific Director, Directed Energy Bioeffects Division, where he championed the importance of bioeffects research for supporting military applications of directed energy and non-lethal weapons. His work enabled weapons design, optimal safe Test and Evaluation, threat assessment, exposure standards, medical preparedness, protection, and policy decisions. It was through his efforts that the US Air Force is recognized internationally as a world-class center for radio frequency radiation health and safety research and dosimetry; he emphasized the critical importance of research quality and science-based decisions. The coveted "Show Me the Data" buttons that he distributed at scientific conferences humorously served to remind attendees that quality was paramount in research.

Dr. Murphy was author or co-author of over 230 research publications and reports. He was an elected member of the Board and long-time sponsor of the Bioelectromagnetics Society and served as President in 2009-2010. He was an active member of the Directed Energy Professional Society. He served as a member of the International Advisory Committee for the World Health Organization (WHO) project on electromagnetic fields from 1995-2004. He was a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and the IEEE Standards Board. He participated in the IEEE International Committee for Electromagnetic Safety, for which he served as International Liaison for 10 years and later served as Membership Chair. Beginning in 1999, Dr. Murphy worked closely with the NATO regarding the human effects of non-lethal weapons.

A sample of his many career accomplishments should be mentioned. He organized and led the NATO Lecture Series on the Human Effects of Non-Lethal Weapons. He Initiated and organized the Air Force Workshops at the annual meetings of the Bioelectromagnetics Society. He organized and hosted ElectroMed2003, a meeting on non-thermal medical applications of electromagnetic energy. He was a Founder of the Directed Energy Bioeffects Institute. He was the Founding Chief of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Effects Center of Excellence. He provided support for the US Marine Corps Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate for the Active Denial System.

Dr. Murphy received many awards from the USAF, the most prestigious of which were the 2002 AF S&E Award for Exploratory or Advanced Technology Development, the 1995 AFMC S&T Achievement Award, the 1993 AF Chief of Staff Team Quality Award, and the 1991 David M. Clark Technology Transition Award. In 2003 he received the IEEE Standards Board Medallion and in 2004 their International Award. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and of the Directed Energy Professional Society.

Throughout his full and illustrious career Dr. Murphy kept his family at the center, being a kind and loving husband and father. Married for 51 years, he was supportive of his wife in her career and enjoyed helping his children along; he was exceedingly pleased by his children's successes, their marriages, their careers, and the delightful grandchildren they gave him.

Following his retirement in 2014, Dr. Murphy enjoyed playing the piano, gardening, and genealogy. He was an excellent photographer, using it to advantage on the many travels and cruises he took with his wife. Dr. Murphy satisfied his thirst for knowledge and new experiences by travelling the world, learning the histories of the places he visited, and sampling even the most exotic local cuisine.

Welcoming, kind, and gracious, he was known for his friendly smile and quick wit. He delighted in writing clever jokes and song lyrics to entertain his friends and family. Always filled with joy and zest for life, Dr. Michael R. Murphy will be sorely missed by his relatives, friends, and colleagues.

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