Former Scripps Director, prominent physicist, and government advisor Edward A. Frieman has died at 87

Edward Frieman
Edward Frieman

From UCSD Reports

Edward A. Frieman, Ph.D., former director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and a prominent national advisor to the government on issues of vital importance to defense, energy, and science policy, died of a respiratory illness at UC San Diego's Thornton Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., on April 11, 2013. He was 87 years old.

Dr. Frieman was appointed eighth director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego vice chancellor of marine sciences, and dean of the graduate school of marine sciences in July 1986. He became director emeritus upon his retirement from his administrative post in 1996. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy from 1979-81.

A plasma physicist, Dr. Frieman had extensive research interests that extended into other physical science fields, including hydromagnetics, hydrodynamics, and astrophysics. He was a professor at Princeton University for more than 25 years, after which he was employed by the federal government, academia, and the private sector.

"Ed was a wonderful example as Scripps director," said Catherine Constable, Scripps interim director and UC San Diego vice chancellor for marine sciences. "He was thoughtful, generous, and supportive, working tirelessly behind the scenes to advance Earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences and ensure we all had the resources we needed. We will miss him dearly."

Dr. Frieman was born in New York City and received his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1946 from Columbia University in New York. He earned his master's degree in physics in 1948 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1952 from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Navy as a deep-sea diving officer. He was trained as a naval hardhat diver in the Hudson River, was commissioned an ensign, and participated in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll shortly after the end of the war. He later said that observing the tests made a deep impression upon him.

Starting in 1952, Dr. Frieman worked at Princeton University on Project Matterhorn, a classified program studying nuclear fusion, with John A. Wheeler and Lyman Spitzer; in 1954, he became head of the project's theoretical division. During his years at Princeton, he met many prominent physicists including Enrico Fermi, John von Neumann, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Edward Teller. He also met Albert Einstein and attended his seminars at Princeton. In 1961, he joined the Princeton faculty as professor of astrophysical science and had several students, including Charles F. Kennel, who later served as director of Scripps Oceanography from 1998-2006. Dr. Frieman served as associate director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory from 1964-1979. During his tenure at Princeton, he was introduced to the world of submarines, military strategy, and naval tactics by Admiral Bobby Ray Inman. Years later, Dr. Frieman later served as a member of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Advisory Committee from 1987-1990.

As a science advisor to the government, Dr. Frieman worked in the areas of defense and energy. He left Princeton in 1979 to accept a position at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) as Director of the Office of Energy Research and Assistant Secretary at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter's administration. During his years at DoE, he oversaw the agency's program in basic science research and participated in a number of public discussions of controversial scientific issues including synthetic fuels, disposal of nuclear waste, and DoE funding of atmospheric carbon dioxide research. It was during this period that he became familiar with the issue of climate change, which has far-reaching implications for energy policy. He is credited with expanding Scripps Institution of Oceanography's research expertise in climate change and attracting prominent scientists to Scripps, including Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a renowned specialist in the study of cloud physics and leader in groundbreaking research into the influence of pollutant aerosols on climate.

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