APS News

Memorial Talk to Honor Feshbach

R. Feynman, H. Feshbach, J. Schwinger
Discussing physics informally (left to right): R. Feynman, H. Feshbach, J. Schwinger at the Shelter Island Conference in 1947. Reprinted from Shelter Island II
The upcoming APS April Meeting in Washington, DC, will feature a special memorial talk in honor of Herman Feshbach, a prominent nuclear physicist and former APS president (1980) who helped develop the theories underlying the behavior of the nuclei of atoms and later became active in the anti-nuclear movement. Feshbach died last December from congestive heart failure; he was 83.

The talk, "A Tribute to Herman Feshbach" will be delivered by J. Dirk Walecka, Governor's Distinguished CEBAF Professor of Physics at the College of William and Mary. It will be part of Session Q2, of the Division of Nuclear Physics, at 10:45am on Monday, April 30 in the Grand Ballroom South of the Renaissance Hotel.

A New York City native, Feshbach spent the majority of his professional career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, beginning as a graduate student in physics and eventually heading the physics department and serving as director of the Center for Theoretical Physics. He is best known for his description of the phenomenon now known as Feshbach resonance, in which two atoms adhere to form a temporary molecule when their kinetic energy is exactly equal to the energy required to bind them together. (Normally, when two atoms collide, they bounce off one another, akin to billiard balls.) He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1986. In 1953 he co-authored (with Philip M. Morse) a two-volume textbook, Methods of Theoretical Physics, which served as the standard reference for physics graduate students for decades.

Feshbach's opposition to nuclear weapons dated back to the early 1950s, when he turned down an offer from Edward Teller to develop the hydrogen bomb, and in 1989 he was one of several scientists who signed a letter urging the US not to build new reactors for the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. He was also a staunch supporter of human rights, co-founding the Union of Concerned Scientists and serving as its first chairman. In 1969 he participated in a "research stoppage" protesting military research at MIT, and later championed the cause of Soviet dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette