February 13, 1919––September 10, 2000
BY CHARLES F. KENNEL, RICHARD S. LINDZEN, AND WALTER MUNK
BILL NIERENBERG EXCELLED in two scientific fields: physics, and oceanography. As a physicist, he worked on the Manhattan Project and contributed to molecular beam research and cascade theory. He helped to shape national policy in oceanography and to develop oceanography into a multidisciplinary, planetary science with a pivotal role to play in climate change research and earth science.
Bill Nierenberg was born February 13, 1919, in Manhattan to a family that lived on Houston Street in the Lower East Side and then moved up to the Bronx. His family was of Austro-Hungarian Jewish ancestry, and his first job was as a “floor boy” in the garment industry. The Bronx was near to his heart and still perceptible in his diction when he died 81 years later in La Jolla, California, after a long and distinguished career as a physicist and oceanographer. Late in his life Bill talked occasionally about how he made the transition from what we now call the South Bronx to California and gave great credit to Townsend Harris High School, where he was admitted by competitive examination in 1933. Townsend Harris was a citywide school for the gifted; it recognized and rewarded his prowess in mathematics, schooled him in physics, paid him small sums for grading papers, and prepared him for the City College of