APS News

APS Announces Primakoff Lectureship and Forum Award Endowment

In November, the APS Council approved a proposal to establish an annual Henry Primakoff Lectureship, supported by an endowment from colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania to honor his contributions to a broad range of fields of physics. In addition, the funds for two other Society honors were supplemented by endowments from outside sources.

Primakoff Lectureship

Primakoff was a theoretical physicist who made significant contributions to many areas of physics, and became the first Donner Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. While still in graduate school he developed the theory of spin waves with T.D. Holstein, which was based on a physical model and employed theoretical techniques. Later, while on the faculty of Washington University, he published a paper on the photoproduction of neutral mesons in nuclear electric fields, which first described the process known as the "Primakoff Effect," and ultimately led to a precise measurement of the very short mean life of the neutral pion. He was also one of the first to suggest the possibility of a collapsed state of nuclei.

In the 1950s, Primakoff turned to studying the nuclear and particle phenomena that manifest the weak interaction. He moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1960, where he became the leading world authority on muon capture, double beta decay, and the interaction of neutrinos and nuclei. He continued to work in the fundamental symmetries of physics and the nature of their breaking until his death.

The University of Pennsylvania established an internal lecture series in honor of Primakoff in 1984. Past speakers include such luminaries as Tsung Dao Lee, Carlo Rubbia, Hans Bethe, Norman Ramsey, Abraham Pais, Victor Weisskopf, Leon Lederman, Vernon Hughes, and APS Past President J. Robert Schrieffer.

Professor C.N. Yang of SUNY, Stony Brook will deliver the first APS Henry Primakoff Lecture at the Spring APS/AAPT Joint Meeting in Washington, DC on April 18, 1997.

Joseph A. Burton Forum Award

The APS Council also approved a proposal to rename the APS Forum Award, established in 1974 by the Forum on Physics and Society. It is now the Joseph A. Burton Forum Award in light of a recent endowment from Jean Dickey Apker. Burton served as APS Treasurer from 1970 to 1985. The annual award now consists of $3,000, a certificate citing the contributions of the recipient, and a travel allowance to attend the Society meeting at which the award is presented. It is still intended to recognize outstanding contributions to the public understanding or resolution of issues involving the interface of physics and society, such as public education, arms control, energy policy, environmental protection, and international cooperation among scientists.

Burton was a long-term employee of AT&T Bell Laboratories from the time he received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in 1938 until his retirement in 1976. His early research was with photocathode materials and luminescent phosphors, both of which were important in the rapidly developing field of color television. He made many contributions to the early development of the transistor during his tenure there, and also helped promote emerging research efforts in nuclear physics, biophysics and space physics.

Burton served as APS treasurer from 1970 to 1985, volunteering his services while still a research director at Bell Labs. After retiring, he accepted a full-time post and developed a simple and easily understandable administrative system. During his 15-year tenure, the Society's assets grew by a factor of 20 while membership dues increased only modestly. In addition, he organized and managed several APS service programs, including industrial internships, travel grants for students, programs in minorities and women in physics, physics education, and the Apker Award for excellence in undergraduate physics education. According to former APS Executive Secretary W.W. Havens, Jr., "It was Joe Burton who enabled the APS to undertake these activities through his wise management of the Society resources."

Burton retired as APS treasurer in 1985 after an extended bout with cancer, but when he experienced a miraculous recovery he opted to become involved in the science and public policy process. At the age of 71, he chose to offer his services and expertise to the Arms Control Association in Washington, DC, until the year before his death in August 1986 at his home in Chatham, New Jersey.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin