APS News

Andrew Sessler 1928-2014

Physicist, humanitarian and former APS President (1998) Andrew Sessler passed away on April 18 at the age of 85.

April 21, 2014

Former APS President Andrew Sessler
Photo: Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkley Lab

Andrew Sessler

Actively involved with the society for decades, he helped establish the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists and broaden the society's core mission to encompass the intersection of physics and society.

Though best known for his humanitarian work and contributions to society, Sessler also left behind an important scientific legacy. He and Victor Emery were the first to predict the superfluid transition of helium-3 in 1960. His early accelerator research on radio frequency acceleration laid the groundwork for many high luminosity proton accelerators like the LHC. In addition, today's x-ray free electron lasers like the one at SLAC are rooted in his proposals in the early 1980s.

The 1973 oil embargo started just two weeks before he took over as director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and in response he started to refocus it towards developing clean energy technology. One of his first actions was to establish the Energy and Environment Division at the lab, the forerunner to today's Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

He has been a long-time advocate for the rights of scientists. In 1980, he was one of the co-founders of Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov and Sharansky, which pressured the Soviet Union to release politically oppressed scientists. For his efforts, he received the first APS Nicholson Medal for Humanitarian Service in 1994. In addition, he helped establish the CIFS at APS in 1980, and chaired the Federation of American Scientists from 1987 to 1991. He has also chaired APS's Panel on Public Affairs, the Committee on Applications of Physics, and the Division of Physics of Beams.

In February, energy secretary Ernest Moniz presented Sessler with the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the top federal science awards, for his years of work on accelerator science, energy and environmental research and humanitarian outreach.

"Andy Sessler changed the face and character of our laboratory," Paul Alivisatos, the current director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said in a statement. "He successfully made the case for science to aid our country during its first energy crisis and helped establish the Lab's efforts that brought about important technologies and standards that have improved the way we conserve and consume energy."