William Ramsay Shields, Co-Founder of Janis Research CompanyJanis Research mourns Bill Shields, Co-founder of Janis Research.

After an extended period of declining health, William “Bill” R. Shields passed away on Friday, July 13, 2018 at age 82, surrounded by his family at the end. 

William “Bill” Shields co-founded Janis Research, a cryogenic equipment manufacturing company, in 1960. From then until his retirement in February 2009, Shields was a familiar face in the cryogenic industry. He was a long-time member of the Advisory Committee of the Corporate Associates of the American Institute of Physics. He was also a member of the “CryoMafia” for over twenty years.

Shields started Janis Research in 1960, working part-time building liquid helium transfer lines and growing the business to manufacture cryogenic research equipment ranging from simple liquid helium storage dewars to sophisticated superconducting magnet and ultra-low temperature systems. 

Bill was a true original, who lived his life (and ran Janis) on his own terms. His instincts for Janis’ cryogenics business proved spot-on time and time again, and he left behind a legacy of commitment to customers and quality that has remained strong for the nearly ten years since his retirement. Scott Azer, Janis Vice President of Business Development, said, “I’m sure that I speak for all those who knew him when I say that Bill will NEVER be forgotten!”

Bill's Obituary:  http://www.autumngreenfuneralhome.com/obituaries/?id=516

Remembering Bill Shields

  • Mary Kaufold, Materials Research Society

    How sad to hear that Bill passed. He was unique and memorable. Bill has sent me a birthday card every year, even from Maine. I will miss his thoughtfulness.
  • Brad Dodrill, Lake Shore Cryotronics

    I always liked Bill. My heart goes out to his family and all at Janis who knew him.
  • Victor Wang, Lake Shore Cryotronics

    Sorry to hear the sad news. I collaborated and received advice from Bill for many years. It was such a productive and fun relationship. He will be missed.
  • Koji NIshi, NIKI GLASS CO., LTD.

    I remember his warm smile and gentle nature. Please pass along my condolences to Bill’s family and everyone at JANIS.
  • Shinjiro Niki, NIKI GLASS CO., LTD.

    I am sorry to hear the news of Bill Shields's loss from Mr. Nishi, our vice-president.
    I have never met him but I know he came to our Tokyo office several times.
    Please accept our sincerest condolences over his passing.
  • Yoshitane Miyasaka, My Sciences Company, Ltd.

    I am terribly sorry to hear about Bill’s passing away. There are not the words what should I say. I would like to offer my deepest condolences on passing away of Bill. He was a truly great global leader and I was proud to have been his business partner.

    Bill Shields, Yoshitane Miyasaka of My Sciences

    Bill Shields, Yoshitane Miyasaka of My Sciences

  • Masatoshi Yoshino, Nippon Automatic Control Company

    We would like to express our deepest sympathy on the passing of your president Mr. Bill Shields. Please convey our sincerest condolences to his family and all at JANIS Corporation.
  • Dr. Robert "Bob" L. Fagaly, Honeywell, Inc.

    I am saddened to hear of Bill’s passing. His influence in the cryogenic community extended far beyond Janis Research. I first met Bill at the Janis/SHE/Lakeshore/American Magnetics/Cryogenic Associates Hospitality Suite (the original Cryo Mafia) at a Chicago APS March meeting many many years ago. Bill became a friend and somewhat of a mentor during my days at SHE. He was always someone in whom I had absolute trust. Bill was amazing knowledgeable and always willing to give help when dealing with customers in common, general cryogenic questions and even personal advice. He was always someone I looked forward to seeing at March meetings along with ASC and other conferences. I will miss his friendship. Please pass along my deepest sympathy to his friends and family.

  • Brian Pollard, Cryomagnetics

    Bill did seem to take special pride in trying to embarrass me in nice restaurants. I remember one time in Pittsburgh while dining in a 5-star restaurant he stood up and yelled across the full room - "My friend here (pointing to me) wants to know where he can locate the ceramic defecatorium." The waiter ran over and softly whispered to me where the bathroom was :-). No one else in the restaurant seemed amused, but of course the Cryomafia was greatly amused. We'll have to raise a glass to his memory next time we're together.

  • Sharon Okada, Cryogenic Control Systems, Inc.

    Bill was truly one of a kind and our pleasure to have known and worked with him.
  • Mike Coffey, Cryomagnetics

    My sincere condolences go out to all our friends at Janis.

    Bill was indeed one of a kind. I can only imagine how you all feel.

    It's already bringing back a FLOOD of memories to me. Many of them are completely unsuitable for publication, but they sure are fun to think about. Very strange to be sad at the news of Bill's passing, but at the same time unable to get the smile off my face.

    I wish I could be confident of having the same effect on people when I go.
  • Dr. John W. Burgoyne, Oxford Instruments NanoScience

    I just wanted to take a moment to pass on condolences from myself and all at Oxford to you as the Janis family, and to Bill’s own family. It is very clear that he built an admirable legacy in Janis, so while missed Bill will certainly not be forgotten.
  • Phil Pickering, Oxford Instruments

    I only met Bill a handful of times at conferences, but he was one of the old school of the cryogenics world, and a real character that really demonstrated his passion to those who he met.

    On behalf of OI, I wish to send our condolences to our colleagues and friends at Janis.
  • Chie Okamoto, Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI), Ltd.

    Every time we travel to the States, we often say (among ourselves internally) that we would go Maine to see Shields-san again.

    I am sorry I do not know he has had some period of declining health. To us, his energetic style always comes to our mind.

    His contribution to the cryogenics world is huge, and everyone is always grateful for it and does not forget him. He is always with us.

  • David Dedham, SHI Cryogenics

    I spoke with Taiji last night and reflected on our experiences with Bill. There was laughing and sadness all wrapped together.
  • Tabitha Sebastino, Cryomech Inc.

    Please allow me to extend our condolences to the entire Janis team.

    We know that the hole these enormous personalities leave not just on our businesses, but in our lives is very difficult to fill. Fond memories do make the healing process easier.

    Bill was an amazing man, a pioneer in our community and someone we are all better for knowing.

    We’re here if you need us.
  • Tom Kent, SEE Co.

    I am glad that I got to meet Bill once a couple of years ago. I am sure the current Janis crew will carry on his legacy.
  • Elliot Scientific

    Although we had limited contact will Bill over the years, we send our condolences to his family and colleagues.
  • Robin Cantor, Ph.D., STAR Cryoelectronics

    Sorry to hear about Bill, I always enjoyed seeing him at various trade shows over the years. My condolences to Bill’s family and everyone at Janis.
  • Laurie Huget, Cryogenic Society of America (CSA)

    Bill Shields was a memorable force in the cryogenics community. He steered Janis wisely and led it into a prominent position in the industry.

    I always looked forward to meeting him at the various conferences as he was very affirming and encouraging to CSA and to me personally.

    I valued his comments and assessments of what was important and newsworthy at each conference. He certainly provided a lot of good cheer and camaraderie to the Cryomafia gatherings. He was missed after his retirement and we greatly regret his passing.
  • Elie K. Track

    “La belle orange” is how I always remember Bill Shields. He was always an early arrival to the cryogenic conferences and I could always find him, often at the bar, where a quick glance identifying me always led to a warm welcome, a firm handshake, a big smile, and a won’t-take-no-for-an-answer invitation to join him for a drink. What a powerful presence, friendly, knowledgeable, eager to help, and unceasing in identifying new opportunities for cryogenics and its fare. He was the pioneer in introducing the small 0.1 W Sumitomo cryocooler to the US cryoelectronics community and generously lent Hypres his first unit to evaluate. This is now the standard for packaged niobium-based digital circuits. Back to “la belle orange.” I learned from Bill that this was a low-volume production brand of an exquisite orange liqueur from France, similar to Cointreau. I have never forgotten the elegance of that phrase which I have since then associated with all the friendship, competence, effectiveness, and business-savvy of Bill. He will be missed and always remembered fondly. My most sincere condolences to the family.
  • Larry Rubin

    I am Larry Rubin, retired manager of the high magnetic field facility at MIT’s Francis Bitter National Magnet Lab.

    I knew Bill Shields very well for a very long time. I first met him shortly after he co-founded Janis Research In 1960, a few years before I joined MIT.

    The great majority of experiments in high fields were carried out at low temperatures. This meant we had a need for cryogenic equipment—transfer lines, storage vessels, and especially research cryostats. Bill’s company could furnish all of these and he was a master at convincing one that Janis could provide the best value. I say “master” because he combined technical know-how with personal charm and certitude to make everything convincing. So began 3 decades of my facility stocking up with mostly Janis cryogenic equipment, an enterprise constantly reinforced by, as Janis’ Scott Azer wrote, Bill Shields’ “commitment to customers and quality”.

    Bill and I worked together on some organizational projects, including the AIP Physics Today Buyers Guide. For 11years, I wrote the New Products column for Physics Today, which helped me keep abreast of the Shields-run advances at Janis.

    Bill and I always enjoyed meeting at trade shows where Janis was exhibiting; the last time I saw Bill was at the 2009 APS March meeting, shortly after Bill had announced his retirement.

    One of a kind.
  • Philippe Benoist, Cryoforum

    It is a sad news and a great loss for all of us.

    I do not have a particular anecdote, I just remember the good times around a beer during his visits to France, his good mood and his enthusiasm.

    A great thought for his family, thank you for sending my condolences.

  • Vinod Chopra, GOODWILL Cryogenics

    Seems I am losing too many friends this season. - feels like loss of a family member.
    Bill with John Swartz had visited my house, I guess in 1985 and I have picture of them with my family.

    Bill was willing to take suggestions from anyone. I was able to convince him, I guess it was 1985, to develop systems with CryoCoolers, in addition to the Liquid Cryostats he was doing at that time. I used to rep. Cryosystems (Owned by Dave Swartz, brother of John of Lake Shore), which I gave up and took up Janis Coolers, which we sold here successfully. I remember lunches with him during my several visits to Janis, with Bill always asking for Coors.

    My family was hesitant to send my daughter to the US for graduation due to cultural differences. When I spoke to Bill about it in 1993, he stated, "It all depends on the person, and someday the girls do become a woman anyway"- It gave me strength to send her to Minnesota University and today we are all happy that she is doing well in the US.

    Bill also provided a very valuable Financial Surety of $30K, which helped her get Visa to the US.

    Very helping, jovial and friendly, whenever I see JANIS, he is in front of me - shall miss him for long time.
  • Vincent Grillo, Cryofab, Inc.

    Bill was one of the first cryogenic people I met when I started doing trade shows in 1982. I thought he was my mortal enemy and a competitor. Turns out I was very wrong. The pictures included are the Bill Shields I came to know.

    Cheers to Bill Shields
    Bill was frequently seen giving people bunny ears in photos.Bill Shields at a Cryomafia meeting
    Bill Shields smiling and laughingBill Shields at a Cryo Mafia meeting

  • Atsushi Onishi, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd.

    My colleague Chie Okamoto-san informed it to me.

    It is very very sad news for me.

    Although last time I met Bill-san was more than 10 years ago, I still remember him and good days for collaboration work with him.

    Actually, since I started to work at Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. (SHI) in 1991, my job history is always with our 4K-GM cryocooler although my role changed several times, such as R&D engineer, Sales Staff, Management of subsidiary in Germany (SCEG), and QA senior engineer.

    It definitely means that my history in SHI is always with Janis.

    I also met Bill-san several times, and always appreciate his warm and collaborative work with us.

    Especially, when I was working in SCEG (Between 2004 and 2008), Bill-san came to Germany every year to support Cryophysics GmbH (They are also SHI’s sales representative) at German Physics Show.

    We always work together while operating Janis’ cryostat with Sumitomo cryocooler.
    It was always very exciting, and impressive time for us.

    Let me attach two photos with Bill-san. It was taken in 2006 in Dresden, Germany.

    If you will have the opportunity to contact with Bill-san’s family, please let them know my deep appreciation that I could work with Bill-san very closely.

    Germany Physics Show 2006, Atsushi Onishi (far left), Detlef Cieslikowski (second from left), Bill Shields (far right)

    Atsushi Onishi, William R. Shields, Detlef Cieslikowski

  • Ann Carroll, Janis Research Company

    I met Bill about thirty years ago, while I was a nineteen-year-old working at Janis part-time during college. He was more than just the president of the company I worked for. He was more like an uncle and mentor. He always listened to my marketing recommendations. We both started work early and would discuss topics from bird watching to High Energy Physics.

    I remember lots of laughs at Janis with Bill. He had a lot of affection for the Bobb brothers and it was very entertaining to watch them interact. For one of Bill’s birthday’s we had Ed Bobb take a photo of Bill’s feet in the bathroom stall and created a special Boston Herald cover story. How many company presidents would find that amusing? I still smile thinking about how Janis would receive magazines for “Neville Dorkish” and other less PC names as Bill’s pseudonyms.

    Bill was very thoughtful and generous. We would regularly donate blood together, usually at the American Legion in Burlington, MA. Bill had a very much in demand blood type and donated tens of gallons of blood over the years. One time I was taking my morning walk and noticed a pigeon laying on the ground. I thought it had broken its wing. Bill drove me to a local animal hospital during work hours, so the pigeon could be helped since I was afraid a hawk would kill it. (It turns out the pigeon was only in shock and its wings were fine.) How many company presidents would do that?

    Bill Shields was larger than life, but down-to-earth. I have missed him since he retired. It was always a joy to see him at Janis clambakes after he retired. Looking back at photos, he was always smiling and often making “bunny ears” behind people’s heads. Memories of Bill will always bring a smile to my face.

    Ann Carroll and Bill Shields

  • Zuyu Zhao, Janis Research Company

    I joined Janis late 1993 after a quick interview by Bill at Harvard where I was working as a post-doc. Since then, we became good friends.

    As a Janis employee, I admired his passion, knowledge, and vision on cryogenics, his constant pursuit of new technologies and better products, and his tactics of business operation.

    As a friend, I valued his integrity, kindness, and sense of humor.

    He will be missed.

    Zuyu Zhao, Bill Shields, 2014


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