Gilbert (Gil) Nelson Stockwell


Gilbert (Gil) Nelson Stockwell of Prescott Arizona, died May 29, due to complications from COPD. He was 88.

Stockwell was born in Souix Falls, South Dakota on Dec.1, 1928. Amongst a few favorite stories he would love to share was that after graduating from Washington High School in 1947, he packed a bag and hitchhiked to attend the University of California, Berkeley where he graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He completed graduate work in mathematics and physics at San Jose State College.

From 1948 until the early 1960’s he served as a master sergeant in the National Guard. While stationed in Pennsylvania he met his first wife and had three children.

From 1952 until 1956, he worked for the newly established University of California Radiation Laboratory in Livermore (now known as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) programming hydrodynamic problems for the UNIVAC computer. He was one of the first employees of the Laboratory and worked, at times, closely with Edward Teller. A favorite story he liked to tell was when he worked with Edward Teller for three days straight, with no sleep, to figure out the yield of the nuclear bomb. When they had completed the formulation, Edward said “I never knew it would be this powerful.”

From 1956 until 1958, he worked for Pan America World Airways at the International Airport in San Francisco in operations research. In 1958, he joined System Development Corporation in Santa Monica where he participated in programming the SAGE project. In 1959, he joined Nortronics where he made simulation studies on the digital differential analyzer for the Lightweight Navigation System (LINS). Later he became the lead engineer responsible for targeting computer programming, including analytic study, formulation of guidance equations, and simulation studies on the effects of missile error on problem geometry for the GAM-87A Skybolt Project. He became supervisor of the System Programming Unit and was responsible for programming in tape preparation for the prelaunch computer and the AN/GJQ-9 test set for the GAM-87A Skybolt Astronertial Guidance System. He also was responsible for developing test programs for system integration in flight testing and oversaw Nortronics IBM 1620 computer installation. He then went on to work for Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, then transferred to San Ramon California, and then Salt Lake City, Utah. After retiring from Northrop Grumman, he began his own computer programming business for hospitals and large companies throughout the US.  He moved to Citrus Heights, California to further his career and move closer to family.

Out of all the places Stockwell worked, he only talked about his career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He would tell stories to everyone he met. When he started at Lawrence Livermore it was in 1952 when the Laboratory had just started, at the height of the Cold War, to meet urgent national security needs by advancing nuclear weapons science and technology.

Stockwell was a member of the association for computing machinery and served as secretary for the society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Northern California Section.

He moved to Prescott Arizona in 2014 with his son Larry to live out his dream of living on a ranch. He deeply loved his family and will be greatly missed.  He loved to read and play Sudoku, and meet new people to tell his stories to.

Stockwell was preceded in death by his parents, Harry and Ellen (Nelson) Stockwell; three sisters, Ruth, Murial and Patricia; and one brother, Paul. He is survived by his sons Larry (Dawn) Stockwell, David (Carol) Stockwell; daughter, Kathy (Jim) Piemme; grandchildren, Jacob and Brian Piemme, Brooke and David Stockwell; and many nieces and nephews, including Stephanie (Tim) Lopez of Livermore Californa, Gretchen (Mark) Stockwell of Port Orchard, Washington and Lynne (Keith) Finch of Madera, California.