March 23, 2009

Berkelman ’59, Former Director of Laboratory of Nuclear Physics, Dies

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Prof. Karl Berkelman ’59, physics, who was the Goldwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Physics and a leader in the design and construction of the Cornell Electron Storage Ring, died Feb. 26. He was 79.
Berkelman received a Ph.D. from Cornell in 1959 and joined the faculty two years later, where he remained for his entire career. Apart from the CESR, he was also actively involved in building many complex detectors that are collectively known as CLEO, according to an obituary published in The Ithaca Journal. The first track finding program for CLEO was also attributed to Berkelman. The program helped future researchers to reconstruct the path and momentum of charged particles following a collision, according to the University.
From 1985 to 2000, Berkelman directed the Laboratory of Nuclear Studies and further developed the CESR and CLEO. During this period the CLEO collaboration was a leader in the field of heavy quark and lepton physics. The campus also saw one of the most productive periods of research in experimental particle physics, according to the University.
“He saw the big picture, but he was quite familiar with the details. He understood enough about everything that was going on in the lab that he was able to make very difficult decisions about priorities. That’s what stood the lab in such very good stead over all those years,” Prof. Maury Tigner, physics, told the University.
Tigner is the director of the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education, which now includes CESR and CLEO.
Berkelman, who was named to his endowed faculty position in 1995, was also remembered as a devoted teacher of physics to students of all levels, according the obituary.
Berkelman, a fellow at the American Physical Society, was a visiting staff scientist at European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva and DESY laboratory in Hamburg, according to the Department of Physics’s webpage.
A memorial service will be held on April 18 at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Ithaca.