Otto F. Sankey

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Otto F. Sankey
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Born11 January 1951
Died21 March 2020
CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • B.S. in Physics
  • PhD. in Physics
Alma mater
  • University of Missouri, St. Louis
  • Washington University

Otto Francis Sankey (11 January 1951 – 21 March 2020[1]) was an American Physicist. He was Regents Professor at Arizona State University and a Fellow of the American Physical Society (elected in 2000), with citation.[2]: For developing real-space first-principles electronic structure methods with broad applications to materials problems.

Sankey made important contributions to condensed matter theory, the most notable of which is the pioneering computer code FIREBALL[3], which enabled accurate and efficient simulation of complex materials (the paper now has over 1700 citations). FIREBALL used local pseudatomic orbitals as the basis set to solve the Kohn–Sham equations|Kohn-Sham equations, which offered significant efficiencies in both computer memory and CPU use. The method was generalized and developed in many ways[4][5]. In some ways, FIREBALL is an ancestor to the code SIESTA (computer program)|SIESTA, particularly in the use of Sankey's compactly localized "fireball" orbitals.

After his retirement, Sankey developed expertise in oncology and particularly the treatment of Prostate cancer. He published a book "Trouble with the Man Gland" to explain the science of the disease and its treatment[6].

Among many other original ideas, Sankey proposed a means of killing viruses by means of laser irradiation, essentially by exploding the capsid from a resonant coupling to the laser[7]

Sankey is survived by his wife, Debbie, and daughters Stephanie, Holly, Robin and several grandchildren[8]

Sankey received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and a PhD. in Physics department Washington University in St. Louis under the supervision of Peter A. Fedders. After a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, he spent the rest of his career at Arizona State University. Many details of his career and associates are available on[1]. His career was recognized by a Festschrift collection honoring his career[9]. The Festschrift papers were published in the journal Physica Status Solidi B. These papers included a Dedication in his honor and 13 scholarly papers contributed by peers celebrating his scientific achievements.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Physics Tree – Otto Francis Sankey".
  2. "APS Announces Spring 2001 Prize and Award Recipients" (PDF). 2001. Sankey, Otto F. Arizona State University. Materials Physics. For developing real-space first-principles electronic structure methods with broad applications to materials problems.
  3. Sankey, Otto F.; Niklewski, David J. (1989-08-15). "Ab initio multicenter tight-binding model for molecular-dynamics simulations and other applications in covalent systems". Physical Review B. 40 (6): 3979–3995. Bibcode:1989PhRvB..40.3979S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.40.3979. PMID 9992372.
  4. Lewis, James P.; Jelínek, Pavel; Ortega, José; Demkov, Alexander A.; Trabada, Daniel G.; Haycock, Barry; Wang, Hao; Adams, Gary; Tomfohr, John K.; Abad, Enrique; Wang, Hong (2011). "Advances and applications in the FIREBALL ab initio tight-binding molecular-dynamics formalism". Physica Status Solidi B. 248 (9): 1989–2007. Bibcode:2011PSSBR.248.1989L. doi:10.1002/pssb.201147259. ISSN 1521-3951.
  5. Lewis, James P.; Glaesemann, Kurt R.; Voth, Gregory A.; Fritsch, Jürgen; Demkov, Alexander A.; Ortega, José; Sankey, Otto F. (2001). "Further developments in the local-orbital density-functional-theory tight-binding method". Physical Review B. 64 (19): 195103. Bibcode:2001PhRvB..64s5103L. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.64.195103.
  6. Sankey, Otto F. (17 August 2015). Trouble with the Man Gland: Journeys of a Scientist Patient Exploring the Science of Advanced Prostate Cancer. ISBN 978-0-9961319-4-0.
  7. Dykeman, Eric C.; Sankey, Otto F. (2008-01-14). "Low Frequency Mechanical Modes of Viral Capsids: An Atomistic Approach". Physical Review Letters. 100 (2): 028101. Bibcode:2008PhRvL.100b8101D. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.028101. PMID 18232930.
  8. Demkov, Alexander A.; Drabold, David A.; Stuart, Lindsay (2020-06-22). "Otto Sankey". doi:10.1063/PT.6.4o.20200622a (inactive 31 October 2021). {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of October 2021 (link)
  9. "physica status solidi (b): Vol 248, No 9". Physica Status Solidi B. 248 (9): 1981–2204. September 5, 2011. doi:10.1002/pssb.v248.9.

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