Gordon Shaw, professor emeritus of physics and a founding UC Irvine faculty member, died on April 26 in his home in Laguna Beach after suffering from kidney cancer for the last six months. Shaw was 72 and is survived by his wife, brother and three children.
Shaw’s research early in his career focused on elementary particle physics, but he became widely known in the academic field when he began to concentrate his research on biophysics and the study of the brain in 1974.
In 1993, Shaw’s research into brain function drew attention and criticism when he published findings that claimed students perform better on tests involving spatial reasoning and mathematics after listening to the first 10 minutes of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major.
This idea became known as the ‘Mozart Effect.’ Shaw retired from UCI in 1994 but co-founded the MIND Institute in Costa Mesa in 1998, a nonprofit organization designed to help K-12 students improve academically, with the ‘Mozart Effect’ as the foundation for the curriculum, regardless of cultural or socioeconomic background.
Longtime friend and UCI physics professor Myron Bander said he will remember Shaw most for his ‘exuberance.’ Bander said that the cancer began to take its toll on Shaw several months ago, but was not discouraged when he first found out about the cancer half a year ago.
‘Almost to the end, he was positive he was going to conquer this disease,’ Bander said.
Mickey Shaw, director of development for the MIND Institute, with no relation to the late physicist, described his work ethic and dedication when he was working at the institute until 2002.
‘He worked every day, he came into the office and worked here like it was a full-time job but he was not paid because he refused to accept any money,’ Shaw said.