The Eulogizer: Atomic physicist Maurice Goldhaber, a ‘second death’ for Elaine Kaufman

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here.

Maurice Goldhaber, 100, atomic physicist

Maurice Goldhaber, who headed Brookhaven National Laboratory and whose “most famous contribution to science’s basic understanding of how the universe works involved the ghostly, perplexing subatomic” particles called neutrinos, died May 11 at 100.

Goldhaber and his collaborators showed that neutrinos always rotate counterclockwise and announced that “the neutrino is ‘left-handed.’ ” The finding helped prompt physicists “to set aside one model of the basic structure of matter and look at another,” according to the Washington Post. 

“It clarified the situation unequivocally,” said Peter Bond, a senior physicist at Brookhaven.

Goldhaber “made numerous significant contributions that helped to establish parts of the theory of subatomic physics now known as the standard model,” Brookhaven said in a tribute. Goldhaber officially retired in 1985 but went to Brookhaven regularly until 2008.

Brookhaven senior adviser Peter Bond cited one of Goldhaber’s regular quips: “Physics teaches old things to new people.”

Goldhaber was born in Lemberg, Austria, and studied physics at the University of Berlin until fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933.

He earned his doctorate at Cambridge in 1936, where he studied under Ernest Rutherford. He and Cambridge scientist James Chadwick were the first to measure the mass of a neutron accurately.

Goldhaber moved to the University of Illinois in 1938 after hearing from scientists and others about Germany’s preparations for war and seeing the lack of preparedness in Europe. He joined Brookhaven in 1950. Goldhaber spoke about his early days as a physics student and then his later career in a 1967 oral history interview with the Niels Bohr Library, Center for the History of Physics, at the American Institute of Physics.
Goldhaber was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His honors included the National Medal of Science in 1983, the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1991 and the Enrico Fermi Award in 1999.

Dinner and holiday table conversations with the Goldhabers must have been at high levels: Goldhaber’s wife, Gertrude Scharff Goldhaber, was a physicist, as was his brother, Gerson, who died last year. His son, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber, is a physics professor at Stony Brook University, and a grandson, David Goldhaber-Gordon, is a physics professor at Stanford.

A ‘second’ death for restaurateur Elaine Kaufman

Elaine’s, the famed restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan named for and hosted by Elaine Kaufman — whose death last December was covered in The Eulogizer — is closing at the end of May.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but it really is the end of an era,” said Stephen McFadden, a regular at Elaine’s and an owner of McFadden’s Saloon. “It was a full-blooded clubhouse. There isn’t a place in town that I think comes close to it right now.”

A wistful blog post in The New York Times put it this way: “The ingredient that regulars like Woody Allen, Gay Talese and Carol Higgins Clark missed most wasn’t on the menu. It was Elaine herself.”

Talese himself wrote a warm piece for the New Yorker about Kaufman shortly after she died.

Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage, pro wrestler

Professional wrestler Randy Savage, known as “Macho Man,” died May 20 at 58 in a one-car accident after he passed out while driving in Florida. The Eulogizer plans to write more about this colorful individual in an upcoming column.