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Edward Philbrook Clancy

July 3, 1913 ~ September 28, 2018 (age 105)

Edward Philbrook Clancy, 105, of Scarborough, Maine, passed away in the early morning hours of September 28, 2018.


A retired professor of physics, he was Dr. Clancy and Professor to many, but for even more, he was Doc or simply Ed, the friend or neighbor you’d seek out for his thoughtful perspective on life. He actively engaged in a century of human history, and was delighted by innovation and invention.


At age 95, he closely watched the Mars Rover exploration from his laptop, marveling at the advances in space exploration. At age 100, he navigated the iPhone and touch screen, astounded by technological developments and curious enough to master tools of the new age.


Born July 3, 1913, in Beloit, Wisconsin, he was the son of Bernice Philbrook Clancy, of Castine, Maine, and her husband George Carpenter Clancy, of Northampton, Mass., who was a professor of English at Beloit College.


During the summer, he and his parents would make the long drive back to Maine, with no maps and frequent tire blowouts. Due to the engine’s low gasoline intake, they’d put the Model T into reverse to make the final incline up Hardscrabble Hill in Orland. Eventually, they’d reach the shores the shores of their beloved Penobscot Bay.


Edward earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Beloit College in 1935 and then earned his master’s and doctorate in physics at Harvard University (1940); his thesis: “The Induced Radioactivity of Krypton and Xenon.” While in Cambridge, he taught physics to World War II naval officers and undergraduates at Harvard and Radcliffe College.


He also conducted classified national defense research at the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory. He had worked on the Harvard Cyclotron, the particle accelerator, before moving to sonar research. These were war years, and Edward recounted how faculty and students arrived at the Cambridge lab early one morning, only to learn that it had vanished. In a secret deal, the military had purchased the Cyclotron for $1, and spirited it away to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Harvard went on to build a second cyclotron for the emerging field of radiotherapy for medical use.


While at Harvard, Dr. Clancy met his future wife, Elizabeth Beale, who was a Radcliffe student in his class. They married in Newton, Mass. and in 1946, moved to South Hadley, Mass, where Ed had been appointed physics professor at Mount Holyoke College.


There, he served as chairman of the physics department, and in 1968 he authored the book, “The Tides, Pulse of the Earth,” which was published in 23 languages and remains an authoritative text to this day.  


He also published scientific articles, spoke at a number of academic conferences over the years and took research sabbaticals in Pasadena, California; Sedona, Arizona; Auckland, New Zealand; and Honolulu, Hawaii.


He and Elizabeth had five children and enjoyed the adventures of raising them in a lively community filled with large families of all backgrounds. He place high values on education and travel, and in 1971 he took his family on a year’s tour of the world, leaving Maine and circumventing through the Pacific, South East Asia, the Middle East, India, and Europe and back to the U.S.


Ed retired from Mount Holyoke in 1979, whereupon he traveled worldwide, hiking with the Appalachian Mountain Club and Elderhostel to Iceland, Ireland, Russia, Peru and Canada. He happily reported to have visited 100 countries.


His 42-year marriage to Elizabeth Beale Clancy ended in divorce. Later, he would marry longtime family friend, Mary “Peggy” Giamatti of South Hadley, Mass. Together, they enjoyed wonderful adventures until her death in 2006.


Throughout his life, Ed Clancy was regarded a gentleman and a humanist. He believed strongly in civil rights and social justice, and encouraged women to pursue higher education, especially in the sciences.  He set the bar high for himself and others, and forever treated those around him with dignity and respect.


Ed leaves five children: Cynthia Thompson (John Benjamin) of Augusta, Maine; Gwendolyn Clancy of Reno, Nevada; Jonathan Clancy (Cheryl) of Pullman, Washington; Benjamin Clancy (Julie) of Kwajalein, Republic of Marshall Islands; and Lynda Clancy (James Dill) of Rockport, Maine, as well as his first wife, Elizabeth Beale-Clancy, with whom he remained great friends.


He is also survived by 13 grandchildren: Wayne (Molly diZerega) Thompson of Fort. Collins, Colorado;  Adam Thompson of Medfield, Mass.; and Sarah Thompson of Rockland, Maine; Jonathan Clancy-Tone, Tessyn Opferman, Alexis Opferman; Erin (Mike) Kreiger, Anna Clancy and Alena Clancy, Shannon Clancy and Heather Clancy; and Dominic Dill and Lucas Dill of Rockport, Maine. He also is survived by five great-grandchildren: Ryan, Daniel and Timothy Thompson; and, Layla and Caden Kreiger.


In Summer 2019, the family will hold a celebration of life for Ed Clancy at his cottage on the shores of Cape Rosier.


Ed’s family extends the deepest gratitude to the staff and volunteers at Piper Shores in Scarborough, who lovingly cared for him in what everyone referred to as his remarkable “Super Age.”


In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Doctors Without Borders, Death with Dignity, Union of Concerned Scientists, Planned Parenthood, Mount Holyoke College and entities that encourage women in the sciences.


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