mrosenbluth.jpgMarshall Nicholas Rosenbluth, a physicist who dedicated his life to understanding and taming nuclear fusion, died on Sept. 28 of pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
The “Pope of Plasma Physics” graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University. He received his doctorate from the University of Chicago when he was only 22. While teaching at Stanford University, he discovered a complex equation that determined how proton electrons move. It was later named the “Rosenbluth formula.”
In 1950, he was recruited by Edward Teller to work on the hydrogen bomb project at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico. There he developed the Monte Carlo algorithm, a method of global illumination analysis.
Rosenbluth spent the next three decades teaching nuclear and plasma physics at the University of California, San Diego and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. From 1980 to 1987, he served as the director of the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas.
In the final years of his life, Rosenbluth served as the senior scientist in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project. His goal was to find a way to replicate fusion, the power source of the sun, and turn it into a more viable energy source. While fusion is a safe, inexhaustible energy source, large-scale fusion power has not yet proven to be economically or technologically feasible.
“I remain convinced that fusion will eventually prove to be essential for the continuance of our energy-based civilization,” he once said.
Rosenbluth received numerous awards for his scientific contributions, including the Albert Einstein Award, the Enrico Fermi Award and the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States.