Homer Alfred Neal


Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1994)
B.S., 1961; Ph.D., 1966
Honorary Degree (1984)
Doctor of Science
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan
Guggenheim Fellow (1980)
Indiana University Bloomington
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Physics


In 1981 Homer A. Neal was named provost and professor of physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His skill as an academic administrator and his passion for intellectual excellence have already advanced the high goals of that campus. He continued to probe the frontiers of high-energy physics with his research and to influence the flow of the nation's scientific resources.

Born in a small Kentucky town, Homer Neal graduated from the twelfth grade in a class of nine at the same segregated school he entered in the first grade. Driven by his curiosity and encouraged by his family, he found a window to a wider world when, as a boy of twelve, he built a radio receiver and transmitter and was able to communicate with other "hams" around the world. This experience stimulated a brilliant mind and created a thirst for knowledge that evolved into the disciplined quest of a scientist. Entering Indiana University at sixteen years of age, he grasped the promise of scholarship and earned a baccalaureate degree in physics in three years. With the help of a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, he continued his studies at the University of Michigan. He conducted his doctoral thesis research on how the proton spin parameter changes as a result of a collision with another proton at high energies. He completed requirements for the Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 1966 and, through research, began the long journey toward mastery of his chosen area of scholarship. A National Science Foundation fellowship made possible post-doctoral studies in high-energy physics at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, and, at twenty-four, Dr. Neal was admitted to the stimulating fellowship of the world's foremost physicists.

In 1967 Dr. Neal chose to return to Indiana University to begin his career on the physics faculty. Here he established himself as a leader of the team performing experiments that continued his quest for knowledge of the nature of the proton's structure. He and his colleagues designed ingenious techniques to measure accurately the change in the proton's spin after a high-energy collision with another proton. These experiments have provided clues about the interactions of quarks which, although not yet observed, are believed to be the fundamental particles out of which protons are made. The achievements of his students who work to expand the knowledge and hypotheses of high-energy physics are the best measure of his influence as a gifted teacher. The Indiana University Department of Physics recognized him with the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1975. His many monographs and reports highlight the developing discoveries in his sector of physics and reach countless numbers of students and colleagues who do not have the benefit of direct contact with this master teacher.

Homer Neal was not singleminded in his devotion to science. He was asked and has agreed to guide and administer the flow of talent and resources into institutional and national scientific endeavors. He became a member of the National Science Foundation, a trustee of the Argonne Universities Association and its Committee on High-Energy Physics, a panel member of the National Research Council on Graduate Fellowships, and a Presidential Science Advisor.

At Indiana University, Professor Neal was a valued member on committees wrestling with interdisciplinary and campus problems. His insights and diplomacy led to his appointment as dean for research and graduate development. He executed his responsibilities as dean with imagination and dedication, while continuing to do significant research.

Homer Neal was an exemplar to any aspiring scientist, but most particularly to the young minority scholar. He gives inspiration to that youth to dedicate a life to the thrill of discovery that is the highest joy of the scientist.