Fermi Lab co-founder dies at 97

The Times-Tribune - - Obituaries / Nation -

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Dr. Ed­win Gold­wasser, a co­founder of Fermi Na­tional Ac­cel­er­a­tor Lab­o­ra­tory and one of the world’s most prom­i­nent physi­cists who spent decades at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois, has died at the age of 97.

The physics de­part­ment at the Ur­banaCham­paign cam­pus an­nounced in a news re­lease that Dr. Gold­wasser, whose re­search helped ex­plain nu­clear force, had died.

“They al­most broke the mold, I’m afraid,” for­mer chan­cel­lor Mor­ton Weir told the (Champaign) NewsGazett­e.

Dr. Gold­wasser started at the univer­sity in 1951, re­al­iz­ing even­tu­ally that Mid­west­ern uni­ver­si­ties could grad­u­ate more physi­cists if there was a high-flight re­search fa­cil­ity in the re­gion. Dr. Gold­wasser was prom­i­nent enough to per­suade Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son to do just that and lo­cate it in Illi­nois, not Wis­con­sin.

In 1967, he took a leave of ab­sence to serve as deputy direc­tor for what be­came known as Fer­mi­lab in Batavia, Illi­nois, which does par­ti­cle physics re­search and has con­trib­uted to ma­jor dis­cov­er­ies in medicine, en­ergy and the ori­gins of the uni­verse.

Later dur­ing the Cold War, Dr. Gold­wasser con­vinced Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon to al­low sci­en­tific ex­changes with Soviet physi­cists. When the Sovi­ets would not in­vite the rec­om­mended num­ber of Is­raeli physi­cists to an in­ter­na­tional meet­ing in Tb­lisi, it was a threat by Dr. Gold­wasser to can­cel the meet­ing that per­suaded the Sovi­ets to give in.

Dr. Gold­wasser re­turned to the univer­sity in 1978 as vice chan­cel­lor for re­search and dean of the Grad­u­ate Col­lege.

The re­lease noted that at the time, Fer­mi­lab direc­tor Robert Wilson praised Dr. Gold­wasser, say­ing, “The suc­cesses of the Lab­o­ra­tory, the firm foun­da­tion for the fu­ture, the cul­tural am­bi­ence, the spirit of op­por­tu­nity for all, the in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance of our work, are all mon­u­ments to his sense of the value of sci­ence and its place in our so­ci­ety.”


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