HomeScienceKurt Gottfried, Physicist and Foe of Nuclear Weapons, Dies at 93

Kurt Gottfried, Physicist and Foe of Nuclear Weapons, Dies at 93

Kurt Gottfried, a theoretical physicist who barely escaped the brutal actuality of 1 world warfare and devoted his profession to stopping one other, died on Aug. 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 93.

His loss of life, in a nursing dwelling the place he and his spouse had been dwelling for the final 10 years, was confirmed by his son, David.

Dr. Gottfried, who fled the Nazis when he was 9, turned an outspoken opponent of nuclear weaponry, a champion of scientists within the Soviet Union and South America who had been political dissidents, and a fierce critic of the George W. Bush administration’s environmental coverage, which he mentioned was grounded in analysis skewed to comport with the White Home’s political agenda.

In 1969, Dr. Gottfried based the Union of Involved Scientists with the physicist Henry Method Kendall, his former roommate on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how and a future Nobel laureate. A nonpartisan group, it lobbies to shift the nation’s analysis priorities from army know-how to “the answer of urgent environmental and social issues.”

Dr. Gottfried mentioned on the time that the world was present process a transformative revolution pushed by “the relentless exploitation of scientific data.”

“That many of those transformations have been immeasurably useful goes with out saying,” he mentioned. “However, as with all revolutions, the technological revolution has launched harmful forces and our society has failed to deal with them.”

In 1999, 30 years after he helped to discovered the group, Dr. Gottfried turned its chairman. He served in that place till 2009.

In 2017, he instructed MIT Know-how Evaluation that his position in creating the group “was way more necessary than any of the science I’ve completed.”

He rallied fellow scientists within the early Nineteen Eighties to assist derail the Reagan administration’s proposed Strategic Protection Initiative, the formidable missile protection system that turned mocked as a “Star Wars” defend.

They argued that the initiative can be technologically futile, and that pursuit of space-based weapons amounted to an abandonment of the coverage of mutually assured destruction, which till then had prevented nuclear battle.

In an opinion essay in The New York Instances, Dr. Gottfried and Hans Bethe, a fellow professor at Cornell College in Ithaca, the place he taught for 35 years, warned that the event of antisatellite weapons “comes near a declaration of warfare on the Soviet Union.”

In 1983, he and a gaggle of scientists, retired army officers and United States senators pressed Washington to open negotiations with the Soviet Union on a treaty that may go nicely past the vaguely worded 1967 settlement to ban the testing and use of weapons, nuclear and standard, in area.

His concern about nuclear energy run amok was pushed, partially, by his affiliation with a number of the very scientists who had devised atomic bombs throughout and after World Warfare II, and who subsequently turned alarmed on the weapons’ harmful potential.

Amongst them had been Victor Weisskopf, Dr. Gottfried’s thesis adviser at M.I.T.; Niels Bohr, with whom Dr. Gottfried studied in Copenhagen in 1959; and Professor Bethe.

He additionally joined a whole lot of American scientists who pledged to curtail cooperative ventures with the Soviet Union in protest of its imprisonment of dissidents.

Public and political strain contributed to the discharge in 1986 of the Soviet physicist Yuri Orlov, who had been jailed for a decade after forming the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group to observe the Soviet authorities’s compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. After his launch, Professor Orlov joined the physics college at Cornell.

Dr. Gottfried additionally helped free and recruit the physicist Elena Sevilla, who had been imprisoned in Argentina due to the political actions of her husband, a newspaper reporter. Upon her launch in 1978, she got here to Cornell to finish her graduate research.

In 2004, complaining that the Bush administration was distorting scientific data, significantly about local weather change, Dr. Gottfried inspired the Union of Involved Scientists to type a program for scientific integrity, which efficiently pressured the federal authorities to strengthen tips for analysis.

Kurt Gottfried was born on Might 17, 1929, in Vienna. His father, Solomon, was a chemist however was barred by antisemitic legal guidelines from instructing or conducting analysis; as an alternative, he ran a manufacturing unit that made ski gear, bicycles and ice skates.

His mom, Augusta, who like his father had a doctorate in chemistry, handed for Aryan and was capable of organize to flee with the household in 1938, when Kurt was 9, after their dwelling was invaded on Kristallnacht.

They traveled via Germany to Belgium. Kurt attended faculty there for six months whereas the household awaited paperwork to immigrate to Montreal, the place they resumed their manufacturing enterprise.

Kurt studied engineering at McGill College in Montreal and might need joined his father’s enterprise had one among his professors, John David Jackson, not recognized his potential and lured him into pursuing physics as an alternative. After graduating from McGill, he earned a doctorate in theoretical physics in 1955 from M.I.T., the place his thesis adviser was Professor Weisskopf.

In 1964 Dr. Gottfried was employed as an affiliate professor at Cornell, the place he was thought of a mentor to a era of distinguished scientists and authorities officers. He turned a professor emeritus in 1998.

He additionally served on the senior workers of the European Heart for Nuclear Analysis in Geneva.

“Kurt Gottfried’s necessary legacies included his college students and the colleagues he impressed,” mentioned Richard L. Garwin, a fellow physicist and fellow critic of the Strategic Protection Initiative. “Additionally, an necessary legacy is the 1988 guide that Kurt co-edited with Bruce Blair of Yale, ‘Disaster, Stability and Nuclear Warfare.’”

Dr. Gottfried additionally helped edit “The Fallacy of Star Wars” (1984) and “Reforging European Safety: From Confrontation to Cooperation” (1990). In 1966 he revealed a extremely regarded textbook, “Quantum Mechanics: Fundamentals.”

In 1955, Dr. Gottfried married Sorel Dickstein, who turned his unofficial editor and adviser. She died in 2021. Along with his son, he’s survived by a daughter, Laura Gottfried; a sister, Ilse Matalon; and 4 grandchildren.



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