James Martin Sharp, born May 31, 1920, to Thomas Frederick and Mary Catherine Hinde Sharp in Denison, Grayson, Texas. Thomas, born 1877 in Missouri, was a train master. He is pictured below. Mary Catherine was born in 1887 in San Angelo, Texas. She is show at right below. She died in 1959.
James earned bachelor of science degrees in physics and mathematics from Texas A&M University in 1940 at the age of 20. While at A&M, he served as captain of the Ross Volunteers and as a drum major. Sharp served two stints in the armed services. During World War II, he was with the U. S. Army Signal Aircraft Warning Service in the Philippines and New Guinea. He rose to the rank of Major. He married Bette Bettison (1921–1998) in Dallas on August 19, 1943. They had three children, sons, Dan and Thomas, and daughter Sandy (Brieden). Following a divorce he married Betty Kasper in 1962. She later died in an automobile accident.
Following his military service, he enrolled in 1947, in the University of Texas at Austin where he received a master's degree in 1948. His MA thesis was, Real Roots by Machine of Simultaneous Equations. Two years late he was awarded a PhD in 1950, his dissertation was titled, The Investigation of Mathematical Functions with a Harmonic Synthesizer. Both projects were directed by Professor S. Leroy Brown.
In 1950, James went into the Air Force and worked at the Special Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque doing testing and development in the military's nuclear program. "He worked on the H-bomb," said his wife, Janet Sharp. "In fact, he was working then with Edward Teller (known as father of the H-bomb) and told interesting stories about him. He worked on helping to develop the timing device that would tell the bomb when to go off."
He left in 1954, having no intention of making nuclear research his life's work. A year later he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his contributions. "He said he got tired of doing things that were destructive and wanted to do things that were constructive," Dan Sharp said. "That's when he went to Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Sharp chaired the institute's chemistry and physics department for a number of years. The following is a summary of his activities and responsibilities at the institute.
Special Fields: Physical Measurements, Electro-Mechanical Components
Development, Mechanical and Electrical Analog Computers, Low Temperature Equipment, Pressure Instruments, Timing Devices, Systems Analysis.
Related Special Abilities: Flight Research, Ballistics Research.
Experience: Manager, Special Projects, Department of Physics, Southwest Research Institute, 1954 to date. Responsibility for overall guidance of research and development projects in acoustics, optics and analog computers.
Chief, Engineering Analysis Branch, Research Directorate, Air Force Special Weapons Center, 1953 and 1954. Responsibility for research and development
Division Leader, Electro-Mechanical Division, Research, Sandia Corporation, 1950 to 1953, Responsibility for research and development projects in connection with component and system analysis, development, testing, and evaluation involving transducers, pressure instruments, computers, electro-mechanical power supplies, timing devices.
Research Scientist, Physics Department, University of Texas, 1947 to 1950. Research and development in the solution of electrical networks, electric wave filters, wave equations, and mathematical functions by mechanical computation.
Publications: Four classified reports - Sandia Corporation. Nine classified reports - Air Force Special Weapons Center. Two papers, Journal of Applied Physics in 1949 and 1950 on mechanical solution of network 5171 wave filter problems. One ONR report, 1950, on applications of a mechanical harmonic synthesizer to solution of mathematical equations with application to physical problems.
Member: Sigma Xi, Sigma Pi Sigma, American Physical Society, RESA.
He left the Southwest Research Institute in 1968 to head Gulf Universities Research Consortium, a research consortium and a spinoff that was designed to bring industry and government money to Texas universities to perform basic oceanographic research in the Gulf of Mexico. For two decades, Sharp was influential in steering research money to Texas institutions through the Gulf Universities Research Consortium. "I heard that in his heyday he was the most influential broker of money for basic science research," said son Dan Sharp. "He had walk-in access to probably a third of the U. S. Senate."
n 1978, James co-authored a paper with S. G. Appan which appeared in Estuarine Interactions edited by Martin L. Wiley. The title was Cumulative Effects of Oil Drilling and Production on Estuarine and Near-Shore Ecosystems.
As the consortium proved to be less necessary, Sharp moved on to head the research department at Daniel Industries, an oil services company, and eventually served on its board of directors.
Sharp lived in Bayou Vista near Galveston since 1971 and was active with the volunteer fire department, improvement committee and municipal utility district. He was a dedicated golfer and avid fisherman. "He was the kind of person who everybody wanted at a party because he could keep everyone entertained, even though he wasn't an extrovert," Janet Sharp said. "He had a great sense of humor, told wonderful stories and was quite a musician."
James married Janet Sue Jones on August 21, 1982 in Harris County, TX.
Family members said Sharp was humble in spite of his achievements and did not even mention the prestigious Legion of Merit in his self-written obituary. "He was consummately honest," Dan Sharp said. "He probably worked too hard. Certainly he had a great deal of integrity. And he downplayed all those things."
James died April 12, 2002 in Galveston, Texas. He was buried in Galveston Memorial Park Cemetery.
James Martin Sharp Photo Album