Joseph S. Levinger

Fellow: Awarded 1957

Field of Study: Physics

Competition: US & Canada

Born: 11-14-1921

Died: 10-25-2018

Website: https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4o.20181211a/full/

I was born in New York City in 1921. I was a student at the Ohio State University Laboratory School from 1931 to 1938, and then at the University of Chicago (B. S., physics, 1941; M.S., physics, 1945) and at Cornell (Ph.D., physics, 1948). During the war I was a junior physicist at the Metallurgical Laboratory (at the University of Chicago, part of the Manhattan Project on A-bombs). I also did war work at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1945. After the war, I worked at Cornell, first as a graduate assistant (1946-48) and instructor (1948-51), and later as a visiting professor (1961-64). I taught at Louisiana State University from 1951 to 1961, and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from 1964 to 1992.

My Guggenheim Fellowship supported my work with Professor Rudi Peierls at the University of Birmingham, England. There I interacted with many European physicists, and wrote a first draft of my first book, titled Nuclear Photodisintegration. I spent my second sabbatical leave (from RPI, 1972-73) at Orsay, a branch of the University of Paris. My lectures there were the first draft of my monograph on two and three body problems.

I started research in 1941 as an experimental nuclear physicist working on the cyclotron. I used part of this work for a secret M.S. in physics. I switched to theoretical nuclear physics, working in that field from 1946 to 2000, studying nuclear disintegration, including the quasi-deuteron model, the scattering of energetic electrons by nuclei and systems of few nucleons. I was able to combine the threads of these divers research areas in my last paper, titled “Fifty Years of the Quasi-Deuteron Model,” which was published in Nuclear Physics (A699, 255c) in 2002.

I travelled extensively, both to participate in physics conferences, and as a tourist. Of course, my two sabbaticals gave me opportunity for a great deal of European travel. I went to four conferences in the Soviet Union (1967, 1988, 1992, and 1994). I visited many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. I went to Guatemala as a “human rights tourist,” a member of delegations organized by Peace Brigades International (1993, 1994, 1996).

I recently wrote a memoir titled Progress. I include my experiences and my opinions on a variety of subjects—pedagogy, physicists, physics, and politics.