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Herman Feshbach

Institute Professor Emeritus Herman Feshbach PhD ’42 died on Dec. 22 of heart failure. He was 83.

During his career, Feshbach was known as one of the world’s preeminent nuclear physicists. His research advanced the field of nuclear reaction theory and the structure of nuclei.

Professor of Physics Robert L. Jaffe told Tech Talk that Feshbach “was as dogged in his defense of fundamental physics as he was kind in his mentoring of younger colleagues.”

Professor of Physics Marc A. Kastner, chairman of the physics department, told The Boston Globe that Feshbach “was an extremely smart, very friendly man, but he also had a toughness about him. He helped many of us start our careers, and was always straightforward and very thoughtful.”

In addition to his physics research, Feshbach also fought to increase the number of underrepresented minorities at MIT. He served as chairman of MIT’s Equal Opportunity Committee, which advised the hiring of more female faculty members in 1991.

Feshbach served as a professor in the Department of Physics for over a half-century. In 1973, he was appointed chair of the department, a position he held for ten years. In addition, Feshbach helped create the Center for Theoretical Physics, which he directed from 1967-73. Feshbach retired in 1987.

Feshbach’s outstanding work earned him many distinctions. In 1986, Feshbach won the National Medal of Science. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the president of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Feshbach received his bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York in 1937.

He is survived by his wife Sylvia, three children, three siblings, and two grandchildren.