January 13, 1936–August 30, 1984
BY P. W. ANDERSON
THE TRAGIC ACCIDENT THAT killed Bill McMillan in August 1984 at the age of 48 deprived the world of the ablest condensed matter physicist of his generation. The best student of John Bardeen at least since J. R. Schrieffer, the most successful of several outstanding products of the postdoctoral program at AT&T Bell Labs during its greatest period, he went on to a full professorship at Illinois in 1972 at the age of 36, where he continued to be outstanding both as a research scientist and as a teacher until he was struck by a confused teenage driver while cycling along a deserted country road. He has been appropriately commemorated by a prestigious prize lectureship for young condensed matter physicists.
A group including Bill’s father’s progenitors left the Isle of Skye in Scotland in 1820 and founded the small community of Union Springs, Alabama. Over a century later Bill’s father, Laughlin, was the first McMillan to leave Union Springs permanently, when he went off to college at Auburn, where he played football and earned a degree in civil engineering. He then moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he worked for a foundry company. He married Edna Shergold Mashburn, the daughter of a judge and a member of an old southern family—her grandfather had owned the Georgia