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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

In Memoriam: David Pines

David Pines

By Avani Sihra

On Thursday, May 3, 2018, David Pines passed away in Urbana, Illinois from pancreatic cancer. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he was an accomplished physicist whose work centered on theoretical astrophysics.

During World War II, he was an undergraduate student and then a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, until 1944, when he joined the Navy. He held many high-ranking positions within the physics community, such as being the director of the International Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter and a distinguished professor of physics at the University of California, Davis. Additionally, he was a professor of physics and of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and worked for the Materials, Physics, and Applications Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was elected to numerous institutions, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Pines had a close relationship with J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was his teacher, mentor, and friend. He met Oppenheimer in 1946 and was immediately blown away by his expertise, describing how lucky he was to know someone that many “would classify [in the] ‘genius’ [category].” Pines had many kind words to say about his friend in an article he wrote for AHF’s book Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, in which he reflected on “the extraordinary job [Oppenheimer] did during the three years he led the Manhattan Project.”

For David Pines’ full reflection on Oppenheimer’s legacy, please see Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. To learn more about David Pines’ life, read his obituary in the New York Times.