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In Memoriam: Edward Gerjuoy

In Memoriam: Edward Gerjuoy

Edward Gerjuoy

We are sad to report the passing of our friend, physicist Edward Gerjuoy. Gerjuoy passed away on January 31, 2018, at the age of 99. He was born on May 19, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish parents who immigrated from Russia and Romania.

In 1937, Gerjuoy graduated from City College in New York, where he studied mathematics and physics. He then enrolled as a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, and studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. Gerjuoy reflected on his college experiences and decisions in an oral history interview with the Atomic Heritage Foundation: “I asked my favorite professor at City College, Mark Zemanski, where I should go to learn modern physics. He answered without hesitation that the best school was Berkeley with Professor Oppenheimer. That was the first time I had ever heard of his name. Since it was as far as I could possibly go from home, there was no question, and out I went.”

Gerjuoy recalled his interactions with Oppenheimer. He felt that as a professor Oppenheimer did not answer student questions well, and that he worked more closely with some students. “I was in the office one day, and Oppenheimer and Julian Schwinger were there. I had a question on one of the problems I was working on. I asked Schwinger if he would explain something to me, and he started writing on the board. Oppenheimer looked at Schwinger and made a pitying remark, something like, ‘It’s too bad that Julian had to spend time doing this.’ I just turned on Oppie, and said ‘Don’t you want me to learn this?’”

During World War II, and after earning his Ph.D., he worked in a wartime shipyard in New London, Connecticut. He completed research on naval sonar technology and the science of underwater sound. He then moved back to New York, where he worked to develop anti-submarine strategies for the Allied Powers.  He became the Acting Director of the Sonar Analysis Group.

After the war, Gerjuoy taught at University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He continued to research atomic physics, and he became the editor-in-chief of the American Bar Association’s Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology.

Gerjuoy took great pride throughout his life in his work as an activist for environmental causes and human rights. He worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and also started an anti-Vietnam War group for faulty at the University of Pittsburgh. He served on the Panel of Public Affairs, and chaired the Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists, with the American Physical Society (APS). In an oral history interview with the American Institute of Physics, he commented: “Scientists, especially physicists, were way ahead in terms of human rights. That is, I think, mainly because science is international. I knew people who had suffered, and this got me interested.”

In 1977, he earned his law degree, and started to research intersections between law and science at the University of Pittsburgh. From 1981 to 1987, he served as an administrative law judge on Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board. In 2002, he returned to Pittsburgh as an emeritus professor, researching quantum computing.

For more on Edward Gerjuoy, click here to read his obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette