Frederick Reines

The Passing of Frederick Reines, Physics Nobel Laureate in 1995

Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone

The UCI community-and the scientific community worldwide-suffered an enormous loss with the death of Frederick Reines, professor emeritus of physics and founding dean of the School of Physical Sciences, who brought international attention to UCI when he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1995. He died late Wednesday, August 26, at the age of 80.

Fred Reines's explorations of the physical world led him to discover the subatomic particle called the neutrino-a finding that changed the world of physics and set in motion a new way of looking at the universe. And while he was becoming a major international figure through his enormous achievements in physics, he helped build UCI into a great university in a short time.

Early this morning, I went to Reines Hall to remember Fred in a place he loved, and I was deeply moved to find that someone had placed flowers at the bronze sculpture that beautifully captures his likeness. This gesture was very telling. Fred was not just admired for his scientific achievements; he also was loved for his humanity. While the world mourns the loss of a great scientist, those closest to him are remembering a wonderful human being who taught his students to "think big," delighted those around him with his humor and his music, and made everyone with whom he worked feel valuable.

His long and distinguished career included 15 years of work in the 1940s and '50s at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where he helped conduct a number of bomb tests in the South Pacific and Nevada, striving to understand the effects of nuclear blasts. During the same time period, he carefully considered which puzzles of physics he would devote himself to pursuing--and decided on the elusive neutrino. In 1951, he joined with the late Los Alamos scientist Clyde Cowan Jr. to search for the particle. They proved the existence of the neutrino in 1956.

After leaving Los Alamos, Dr. Reines spent seven years as head of the Physics Department at the Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio. He joined UCI in 1966 as founding dean of the School of Physical Sciences. He served as dean until 1974, when he resumed his regular teaching and research. He was appointed as a distinguished professor of physics in 1987, and also served as professor of radiological sciences in the College of Medicine. He became professor emeritus in 1988 and taught through winter 1991.

As founding dean of the School of Physical Sciences, and as a researcher and professor, he left a lasting imprint on UCI. The high quality of work in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and many of the achievements of the School of Physical Sciences can be directly traced to his influence, actions and example. And with his Nobel Prize, he helped propel UCI into the top echelon of the nation's research universities.

Besides the Nobel Prize, Dr. Reines received many other important awards, including the National Medal of Science, the American Astronomical Society's Bruno Rossi Prize and the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize. He also was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

While stretching the limits of scientific knowledge, Dr. Reines also pursued his passion for the arts. He was an accomplished singer who trained with a well-known voice coach at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and performed with the chorus of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. He'd often sing Gilbert and Sullivan pieces at parties, and even could be heard singing in the halls of the Physics Department.

Funeral services will be private, but plans are under way for a memorial service on campus and details will be announced soon. Donations can be made to the UCI Foundation-Frederick Reines Memorial Fund. They can be mailed to the Frederick Reines Memorial Fund, University of California, Irvine, School of Physical Sciences Dean's Office, Irvine, Calif. 92697-4675.

Fred Reines left behind a rare legacy of fundamental scientific discoveries and many, many dear friendships. He will be greatly missed. Please join me in extending our deepest sympathy to Dr. Reines's wife, Sylvia, as well as to the rest of his family.