In Memoriam: Victoria McLane

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Posted: October 21, 2011

Victoria McLaneVictoria McLane, who joined the Department of Nuclear Energy as a physics associate IV on February 12, 1962, left in November 1963, returned in May, 1964, and retired as a senior physics associate on January 3, 2005, died at 71 on August 13, 2011. In addition to her scientific contributions, she was a founding member of Brookhaven Women in Science and contributed significantly to its organization and success.

A remembrance of Vicki McLane by colleague and friend Harriet Martin, BNL retiree

Vicki McLane spent almost all of her working years at BNL. She was hired by the late Sol Pearlstein to work at the National Nuclear Data Center, which started out known as the Sigma Center in 1952 and evolved into an international nuclear data bank as nuclear energy became widely used. In 2002, the group celebrated its “Golden Jubilee,” and Vicki, by then was known to all those who worked in nuclear data centers throughout the world and at the IAEA — the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is an arm of the U.N. When Vicki retired, she continued to travel around the world consulting with the nuclear data centers on maintenance and retrieval of nuclear data for energy purposes, and to establish standards for data collection.

I met Vicki in 1977, when I applied for a new half-time position as Librarian, to maintain and update the periodical and book collection. Before I applied for this position, I had been working half time as a librarian for the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron Department, now become the Collider-Accelerator Department. With both half-time positions I was a full-time BNL employee, and with Vicki as my supervisor we spent a great deal of time together. She gave me an understanding of what was required and where I fit into the larger picture. We became colleagues and very good friends working very well together.

In my previous life I had been active in getting the Three Village School District to comply with Title IX, which was a federal law concerning gender equality in the schools. At BNL, I convinced Vicki with very little persuasion that with women scientists and engineers working here, we could organize a group to go to the schools and talk about science and engineering to girls to get more of them into fields where women were scarce. This effort Vicki named “One Mind”, after a quote by Plato!

That was the beginning of our collaboration and the formation of the BNL Women in Science (BWIS). Vicki had the tools with which we could arrange lists of people to contact, “things to do” lists and, most importantly, to introduce the professional and scientific women to each other. And she knew also that we needed mentors backing us. First, of course, we needed Sol Pearlstein’s approval to work during lunch hour and “break time” and after hours. He was very sympathetic. Then she enlisted the help of the late Warren Winche, an Assistant Director at that time, who spoke to us about the Lab culture. Then we also had Janet Whitehead, who was at Personnel at that time, and the late Gail Williams, who was at the Director’s Office.

Vicki and I spent hours and hours writing a charter for BWIS. She always said that the times of our collaboration were among her happiest memories. We continued our friendship into our retirement years, long after we were no longer colleagues, just good friends. She loved to travel and took a final two-week adventure cruise to the Outer Scottish Isles just after she had her terminal cancer diagnosis. Courage.

She died on Saturday, August 13. She was 71, and still young at heart. She will be missed by all who were lucky to know her.

Last Modified: October 21, 2011