Erik L. Mollo-Christensen ’48
Age 86 — February 20
Mollo-Christensen survived the Buchenwald concentration camp and went on to attend MIT in 1946. He became an associate professor in 1955 and a full professor in 1962. He served at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies as chief of the Laboratory for Oceans in the mid-1980s. He conducted buoy research off Cuttyhunk Island, Mass., and, as an expert on tides and currents, advised the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Mollo-Christensen taught at MIT for more than 30 years as a professor of aeronautics, meteorology and oceanography. He made significant contributions to the fields of turbulence flow, jet noise, aero elasticity, air-sea interaction and the field of fluid dynamics, including blood flow.
John M. Wozencraft ScD ’57
Age 83 — August 31
Originally from Dallas, former professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineerign and Computer Science John Wozencraft was considered one of the pioneers of coding theory. He developed the sequential decoding techniques for convolutional codes that made error-free communication possible with relatively low computing power — enabling the subsequent development of modern strategies used by the Internet, cellular phones, and deep-space transmissions.
While on a leave of absence from MIT from 1972 to 1974, he served as Dean of Research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. After he retired from MIT in 1976, he served as a professor of electrical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School and the founding chairman of a new interdisciplinary command, control, and communications academic group. He was appointed distinguished professor in 1985, and he retired in 1987.
Bernard J. Frieden PhD ’62
Age 79 — September 8
Frieden served as associate dean of the school of Architecture and Planning from 1993 to 2001 and as chairman of the MIT faculty from 1987 to 1989. He also served on White House advisory committees and worked as a consultant to numerous federal and state agencies. He also served as director of the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies from 1972 to 1975 and as director of research at MIT’s Center for Real Estate from 1985 to 1987.
Frieden wrote eight books and more than 60 articles on housing and city development. Among them were The Future of Old Neighborhoods; The Politics of Neglect: Urban Aid from Model Cities to Revenue Sharing (1975), co-authored with Marshall Kaplan; The Environmental Protection Hustle (1979); and Downtown, Inc. How America Rebuilds Cities (1990), co-authored with Lynne B. Sagalyn.
He retired in 2002.
William F. SchreiberAge 84 — September 21
Shreiber was a faculty member at MIT as Professor of Electrical Engineering from 1959 until 1990, while still maintaining a consulting practice and serving as an expert witness in patent legislation. Students remember him as “inventive, energetic, generous” who was patient and helpful as a teacher.
Schreiber’s major professional interest lay in image processing systems, including printing, facsimile, and television. He developed one of the first commercially successful optical character recognition (OCR) machines, and for his work was awarded the Honors Award of the Technical Association for the Graphic Arts, the David Sarnoff Gold Medal from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and the Gold Medal of the International Society for Optical Engineering. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
Peter N. Curtin G Age 23 — October 10
Peter Curtin, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at MIT produced journal-worthy research less than two years into his chemistry PhD program, but still found time to compile and play mix CDs, brew fresh pots of coffee, and maintain office supplies for his lab.
Curtin came to MIT after graduating with highest honors from Princeton in 2008. Daniel G. Nocera, a professor of chemistry and Curtin’s MIT advisor, said Curtin had already made enough contributions as a researcher that his name will appear on articles to be published in the future.
Curtin collapsed at the 25-mile mark in the Baltimore Marathon.
Rodger Doxsey ’69 Age 62 — October 13
Rodger Doxsey earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at MIT, and worked on the third NASA Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS 3) in the 1970s. He also served as the head of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Hubble Mission Office.
Richard Yamamoto ’57
Age 74 — October 16
Physicist Richard Yamamoto, who worked with interactions of subatomic particles, spent his entire career spanning at MIT. He devised a way to use a laser to accurately count the number of left-handed and right-handed electrons in a beam of electrons. His method was used to measure the interaction strength of a particle called the Z boson, a heavy elementary particle first discovered in 1983.
Yamamoto joined MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science in 1963 and became an instructor of physics in 1964. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1965 and became a full professor in 1972. He is remembered by his colleagues for his kindness and gentle enthusiasm, which helped to shape the culture of the community.
Yamamoto died of complications due to lung cancer.
Kabelo Zwane ’12Age 22 — November 7
Originally from a small village in rural Swaziland, Kabelo Zwane was the first from his nation to attend MIT. A sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering, he was creative and good at building contraptions to help his friends. He applied himself to his studies, working late into the night.
Kabelo was a member of the African Students Association and Campus Crusade for Christ, but took time to talk to people wherever he went, even if they were strangers. His friends remembered him as a caring individual who went out of his way to help them. His goal in life, as stated in his application to Experimental Study Group, was, “… helping other people. Committing one’s life to the betterment of others has to be the most satisfying thing. That is what I plan to do with my life regardless of what field I end up in.”
Zwane was found in Bedford, Mass. in what was determined to be a suicide.
Howard Wesley Johnson
Age 87 — December 12
As the 12th President of MIT from 1966 until 1971, Johnson was regarded as a strong leader who helped guide MIT through a tough period for universities nationwide. Among the many new initiatives introduced during his administration were the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and Independent Activities Period (IAP). The change from full-letter grades to the pass-no credit system that is currently in place for freshmen was also introduced during his administration. People remembered him for his leadership and optimism — both qualities that allowed him to lead efficiently and successfully. He went on to serve as chair of the MIT Corporation from 1971 to 1983 and served on numerous governmental panels including the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Policy. Johnson also served as a trustee or director of such institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Radcliffe College, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
John V. Harrington ScD ’58
Age 90 — December 13
A native of New York City, Harrington served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and afterwards oversaw the development of radar data processing and transmission equipment while at the U.S. Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory. After serving as head of the Lincoln Laboratory’s Radio Physics Division from 1958 to 1963, he became a professor in both the aeronautics and astronautics and electrical engineering departments. He also served as the first director of the MIT Center for Space Research. His research interests included radar detection theory, digital computer development, digital communications, magnetic and electrostatic storage systems, theory of magnetism and magnetic domains, radio physics, and astronomy.
Harrington died at his retirement home in Maryland after a brief illness.
Paul A. SamuelsonAge 94 — December 13
Samuelson, Nobel Laureate known for his contributions to modern economics, was an Institute Professor Emeritus and Gordon Y Billard Fellow at MIT.
Born in Gary, Indiana, Samuelson was appointed an assistant professor of economics at MIT in 1940, associate professor in 1944, and full professor in 1947. In 1966, he was named Institute Professor, MIT’s highest faculty honor.
As the Swedish Royal Academy said in its Nobel citation, Samuelson had “rewritten considerable parts of central economic theory and has in several areas achieved results which now rank among the classical theories of economics.” His contribution to economics lay in explaining the correct approach to the theory of balance between prices and supply and demand, the academy said.
He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the British Academy; Phi Beta Kappa; the International Economic Association (president, 1965–68 and lifetime honorary president); the National Academy of Sciences, serving on the Finance Committee from 1977 until 2009; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Many of these obituaries have been adapted from obituaries published by the MIT News Office.