Stephen J. Davis


Stephen James Davis of Palmyra, New York died Oct. 25. He was 64.

Born Nov. 11, 1952, in Geneva, New York., Davis was the son of the late James F. Davis Jr. and Elizabeth Lyon Davis. After his parents were discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 1952, when he was six weeks old, they returned to his father's homeland of Rock Hall. At the age of 14, the family moved to Chestertown. He graduated from Chestertown High School, Class of 1971, during which time he attended Boys State. In his senior year, he invented in his parent's basement an apparatus that measures the wave length of a laser beam in pico seconds, which he later received a patent on.

As an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, he joined the Quantum Electronics Group under Professor Carroll Alley. He worked with grad student John Degnan to finish work on a state-of-the-art short pulse laser that Sylvania Electronics had given up on. Following this, he provided invaluable support to experiments demonstrating general relativistic effects on the rate of real world clocks.

Davis then went to work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he worked on the Shiva laser, the most powerful laser in the world at that time.John Emmet, the director of the laser fusion project, stated that his contributions saved a year on the successful completion of the laser even though he was technically "just a technician." Following this, he set up PowerSpectra Co. to market a high-voltage short pulse generator that he had developed while working on Shiva. He continued leading PowerSpectra for many years, improving the pulse generator and working with Boeing to apply it to advanced radar. Unfortunately, Boeing changed direction in its radar work, causing PowerSpectra to close. He then continued working with Land Ray, a spinoff from PowerSpectra that worked on ground-penetrating radar.

Davis was a private pilot. While living in California, he cherished living on his sailboat, Bombay Express, while enjoying time with family and friends. He would return to Rock Hall as much as he could, owning a boat there. He enjoyed being an amateur photographer, following NASA research and always being involved with radar research.

Davis is survived by two sisters, Marybeth Downes of Centreville and Jane Feigleson of Chestertown; and his nephews, Richard Coppage, Clay Coppage and Harry Feigleson. He was preceded in death by his brother, Thomas Davis in 2007; his mother in 2011; and his father in 2017.

A graveside funeral service will be held at St. Paul's Cemetery, Chestertown, at 11 a.m. Nov. 18.

In lieu of flowers, Davis’ family requests that memorial donations be made to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.

Online condolences may be sent to the family on the web.