US Fusion Pioneer Albert Simon Passes, Age 92

February 8, 2017

Albert Simon, a pioneer of the US fusion program and a leading theoretician in plasma physics, died Sunday, February 5, 2017, at age 92. He was a former chair and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester and a long time contributor to the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Professor Simon graduated from the City College of New York in 1947 with a B.S. after serving in the Navy during WW II as an electronic technician’s mate. He earned his doctorate in physics from the University of Rochester in 1950, working with Professor Robert Marshak. He served as associate director of the Neutron Physics Division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN, then as head of the Plasma Physics Division at General Atomic in San Diego, CA. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1957.

Simon was a Guggenheim Fellow at the Danish Atomic Energy Commission (1964-65) and held visiting positions at The Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton (1974) and at Oxford University, Oxford England (1975). He authored the text An Introduction to Thermonuclear Research and was the past editor of a series of books, Advances in Plasma Physics, and co-authored articles on nuclear fusion for the Encyclopedia Americana.

He returned to the University of Rochester in 1966 as a professor of mechanical engineering and physics, later serving as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1977 to 1984. He became a senior scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in 1983, and was a member of the University's interdisciplinary program in High Energy Density Plasma, in collaboration with LLE, until his retirement in 2006.

"Albert Simon made seminal contributions throughout his long and distinguished career to the field of plasma physics and controlled thermonuclear research," said Robert McCrory, LLE’s director.

He contributed classic papers on the Rayleigh Taylor Instability in the 1960's in Physics of Fluids and was the first to successfully carry out the calculations that explain the two-plasmon decay, a complicated process in which laser light propagating through a plasma spontaneously transforms into plasma waves. Two-plasmon decay has turned out to be an important process in direct-drive laser-fusion research.

Correspondence and condolences may be sent to the family via Jean Steve @jste@lle.rochester.edu

In lieu of flowers, at his family's request donations in his memory may be made to the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics, 250 East River Rd., Roch., NY 14623 - Attention: Jean Steve. Any donations will be used to support students as Al was passionate about education.