Harry J. Lipkin, Israeli nuclear physicist, died at 94

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Harry Jeannot Lipkin, born on June 16, 1921 and died September 15, 2015, also known as Zvi Lipkin, was an Israeli theoretical physicist specializing in nuclear physics and elementary particle physics. He is a recipient of the prestigious Wigner Medal.

Harry was born in the United States and attended high school in Rochester, New York.

He studied electrical technology at Cornell University, also attending physics courses by Hans Bethe and Bruno Rossi, and graduated in 1942.

During the Second World War he worked as an engineer at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, developing a radar receiver.

In 1956 he was awarded a doctoral degree from Princeton, where he studied under David Bohm.

Harry described his experiments as the first to show that positrons could be described by the Dirac equation.

In 1950 Harry emigrated to Israel with his wife Malka, partly to become involved with the Kibbutz movement.

Instead of agricultural work, the Israeli government assigned him to spend a year at CEA Saclay, a French Atomic Energy Commission facility, to acquire knowledge to support the planned opening of Israel’s first nuclear reactor at Dimona.

In 1954 he returned to work in Israel, establishing the country’s first course in nuclear physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

Between 1956 and 1958 he served as an advisor to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.

In later years he worked frequently with the Argonne National Laboratory in the USA.

In 2007 Harry was working at the Weizmann Institute and at the Sackler Institute of the University of Tel Aviv.

Harry is noted for his applications of group theory in physics and his modelling of the quark during the 1960s.

His book “Lie Groups for Pedestrians” was widely used and inspired a number of further essays and books in physics, its name anticipating a later well-known book series “For Dummies”.

During the 1980s Harry began working with educational theorist Nira Altalef to develop LITAF, a method for teaching children to read, in response to the particular challenges Israeli educators faced in teaching classes of children from multilingual immigrant populations to read.

In 1957 Harry and the virologist Alexander Kohn founded the science parody magazine Journal of Irreproducible Results after convening the first international conference for nuclear physics in Israel.

The journal inspired the rival Annals of Improbable Research, from which were to emerge the IgNobel Prize awards.

Harry received the Rothschild Prize in 1973, the Kaplun Prize in 1980, a Sackler Scholarship in 1992-1993, a Weizmann Prize of the City of Tel Aviv in 1994, and the Wigner Medal in 2002.

Harry J. Lipkin died at age 94 on September 15, 2015.