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ALVIN RADKOWSKY

1915–2002

Elected in 1991

“For seminal contributions and innovations in the engineering development of nuclear power.”


BY MILTON LEVENSON


ALVIN RADKOWSKY, professor of nuclear engineering at Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, both in Israel, died of pneumonia on February 17, 2002. Before retiring to Israel, Dr. Radkowsky had been chief scientist of the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program for more than 20 years.

Alvin was born on June 30, 1915, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the same town where his mother was born; his father was an immigrant from Lithuania. Alvin attended City College of New York (CCNY) and, at age 20, received a B.S.E. in electrical engineering. His first job was as a troubleshooter for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. In 1938, he went to work as an electrical engineer at the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships in the interior communications and fire-control section. While employed there, he continued his education and received an M.A. in physics from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where his thesis advisor was Edward Teller, perhaps an indication of things to come.

In 1947, still working for the Bureau of Ships, Alvin earned a Ph.D. in physics from the Catholic University of America. His dissertation, “Temperature Dependence of Electron Energy Levels,” written under the guidance of Karl P. Herzfeld, described a phenomenon now called “the Radkowsky effect.”



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