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Maurice Goldhaber, physicist, dies at 100

Maurice Goldhaber died Wednesday at his home at

Maurice Goldhaber died Wednesday at his home at Sunrise Senior Living in East Setauket. He was 100. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Maurice Goldhaber, the former director of Brookhaven National Laboratory and a physicist known for his studies of subatomic particles, died Wednesday at his home at Sunrise Senior Living in East Setauket. He was 100.

Goldhaber, formerly of Bayport, had suffered from pneumonia in recent weeks, said his son, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber of East Setauket.

During Maurice Goldhaber's tenure as director of the Upton lab from 1961 to 1973, lab scientists made physics discoveries that led to three Nobel Prizes.

"Because of his love of science and his willingness to take chances, there was a lot of great stuff going on at the lab," said Peter Bond, senior adviser to current lab director Sam Aronson. "He was always very curious, always coming up with ideas."

Earlier in his career, Goldhaber contributed to studies that found neutrons were distinct subatomic particles, rather than compounds, as had been previously believed.

Goldhaber received several major science awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi Award. Prizes named for him are awarded by Harvard University and Cambridge University in England.

Goldhaber was born in Austria on April 18, 1911, and received his doctorate in physics from Cambridge in 1936. He joined Brookhaven Lab in 1950 with his wife, the late Gertrude Scharff-Goldhaber, a nuclear physicist.

Bond, 71, of Stony Brook, said Goldhaber and two other scientists conducted a "tabletop experiment" to establish the helicity, or spin, of neutrinos. Previously, there had been two competing theories about whether neutrinos have a specific spin.

Goldhaber retired in 1985 but continued to work at the lab well into his 90s. He collaborated with his son, Alfred, on several papers, including one published in this month's edition of Physics Today.

"Mainly, he really wanted to know how the world works," said Alfred Goldhaber, 70, a Stony Brook University physics professor. "He didn't have any strong outside interests except for one, which was participating in and giving parties. He loved parties."

In addition to his son Alfred, Goldhaber is survived by another son, Michael, of Oakland, Calif., two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Services and burial were Friday at Agudas Achim cemetery in East Setauket.

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