Latest about COVID-19 and W&M's Path Forward.

Info for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Notice about John Lacy McKnight

Provosot Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community May 27, 2020. - Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

John Lacy McKnight, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, died of natural causes on May 12, 2020, at Patriot’s Colony in Williamsburg.  He was born September 13, 1931, in Monroe, Michigan, to the late Esther L. and Joseph D. McKnight of Detroit and Wolverine, Michigan.  Professor McKnight received an A.B. in Physics in 1953 from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics and Philosophy of Science from Yale University in 1957. He was a part of many honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Xi.

Professor McKnight retired in 2000 after 43 years at William & Mary. While at the university, he also consulted on 18th century scientific instruments for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Monticello.  In 1976, he received an NSF Grant (with Dr. Hans Van Baeyer) to create and perform a historical lecture with period 18th century scientific instruments, which they took on the road to universities, labs and federal agencies up and down the East Coast, including the New York Academy of Science in New York as well as the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.  William & Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, and Nasa Langley Research Center hosted their performances.  A subsequent NSF grant helped create their lecture into a movie, which is still available as a DVD at the Visitor Center of Colonial Williamsburg under the title “A Glorious System of Things.”

Professor McKnight was also a part of many societies and associations, including the American Physical Society, History of Science Society, Society for the History of Technology, Scientific Instrument Society (UK) and the International Scientific Instruments Commission (IUHPST).  He was co-founder of the Virginia Chapter of the Dark Sky Association, co-founder of the Virginia Wilderness Society, president of the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, president of Friends of the Regional Library, member of Bruton Parish Church as a layreader and chalicer, member of the Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg and both instructor and student at the Christopher Wren Association.

Professor McKnight is survived by his wife of 56 years, Joyce McKnight; and son, Andrew N. McKnight (Nevbahar). A private burial will take place at Bruton Parish Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family has guided that donations be made instead to the following:  Bruton Parish Church, Child Development Resources, Williamsburg Regional Library and Swem Library at William & Mary.  Condolences may also be left for the family at



Peggy Agouris