Charles Garrett, Scientist

Sept. 15, 1925 - April 08, 2017
Charles Garrett, Sept. 15, 1925 - April 08, 2017

Charles Garrett, a physicist, author, and educator in scientific research and a 47-year resident of Fithian Lane in East Hampton, died of cardiac failure on Saturday at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton. He was 91 and had been ill for five weeks.

From 1952 to 1954, Dr. Garrett was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. From 1960 to 1969, he led its optical-electronics research department and technical staff. He then went on to the position of director of AT&T Bell Labs, until 1987 studying semiconductor surfaces and advocating presciently for the belief that optical fiber cables were the way of the future. Dr. Garrett lived in New York City from 1970 to 1987, when he became a year-round resident of East Hampton.

Charles Geoffrey Blythe Garrett was born in Ashford, in the county of Kent, England, on Sept. 15, 1925, to Charles Alfred Blythe Garrett and the former Laura Marie Lotinga. He grew up there, attending the Tonbridge School. In 1946, he received first class honors in part two of the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge University. He went on to engage in research in low-temperature physics at the Royal Society Mond Laboratory. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge in 1950.

He moved to the United States that year, following an invitation to join the faculty at Harvard University. There, he served as an instructor in physics.

Dr. Garrett’s work focused on the thermodynamics of magnetic cooling experiments, thermal conductivity of paramagnetic salts, nuclear hyperfine structures, specific heat, and critical field effects in magnetic order-disorder phenomena. His department was responsible for many significant developments in laser research, and he collaborated in the experiments that first extended laser techniques to the far infrared.

He was chairman of the Gordon Research Conference on nonlinear optics and wrote the books “Magnetic Cooling,” in 1954, and “Gas Lasers,” in 1956.

Dr. Garrett also played the piano, harpsichord, and carillon, and was a member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. With then-President Lyndon Johnson in attendance, he performed a solo concert of carillon at the National Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He was also passionate about antique Bentley and Rolls-Royce automobiles, as well as the early-18th-century houses of East Hampton. A preservationist, he spent many hours restoring his own East Hampton residence. He became an American citizen in 1989. 

Dr. Garrett, who was cremated, is survived by his partner of 56 years, Jacques Henri Peltier of East Hampton. A memorial service will be held on May 20 at 1 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. The Rev. Denis Brunelle will preside.

Memorial contributions have been suggested to the East Hampton Meals on Wheels program, 33 Newtown Lane, Suite 205, East Hampton 11937 or ehmealsonwheels.org, or to Doctors Without Borders at doctorswithoutborders.org.