Friday, November 14, 2008

Deceased--Martin A. Pomerantz

Martin A. Pomerantz
December 17th, 1916 to October 26th, 2008
American Institute of Physics

"Explorer, physicist advanced study of the sun"


Rob Rogers

November 14th, 2008

Marin Independent Journal

A private memorial celebration was held Friday for Martin Arthur Pomerantz of San Rafael, an astrophysicist and explorer whose travels to the South Pole revolutionized the study of the sun.

Mr. Pomerantz died of esophageal cancer Oct. 26 at his home. He was 91.

His observations of the sun during 26 trips to the South Pole - where the National Science Foundation has established an observatory in his name - helped establish the field of helioseismology, the study of pressure waves in the sun.

"His long and successful career as a cosmic ray physicist, as honorable as it was, was overshadowed by the contribution he made by realizing that the South Pole is almost better than any place on Earth for making measurements of many kinds," said Peter R. Saulson, who holds the Martin A. Pomerantz chair of physics at Syracuse University. "The ability to make uninterrupted observations of the sun (from the South Pole) allowed the measurement, for the first time, of the vibrations of the sun, leading to a new field - helioseismology - that revealed facts about the interior of the sun."

Born in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 17, 1916, Mr. Pomerantz earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Syracuse University in 1937. He received his master's degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938 and his doctorate from Temple University in 1951.

He joined the University of Delaware's Bartol Research Institute in 1938, serving for almost 30 years as its director and president from 1959 until 1987. He became one of the pioneers in balloon-borne cosmic ray research during the 1940s and '50s and his work with cosmic rays brought him to Antarctica in 1964.

Mr. Pomerantz quickly realized that the clear, cold air and stable atmospheric conditions of the Antarctic made it an ideal site for astronomy. His work over the next decade helped establish the importance of Antarctic observatories.

"He would be in touch with me through ham radio operators," said Mollie Pomerantz, Mr. Pomerantz's wife of 67 years. "It was always in the middle of the night, and it was always so wonderful."

After retiring in 1990, Mr. Pomerantz opened a car dealership with his son in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Mr. Pomerantz moved to San Rafael in 2001 and was active in the Rotary Club of San Rafael.

Mr. Pomerantz's many awards and achievements include the National Science Foundation's Distinguished Public Service Award, the Prix de la Belgica and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Medal for Distinguished Scientific Achievement. He served on the board of trustees of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and was a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Pomerantz Tableland in Antarctica's Usarp Mountains is named after him.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son, Martin Pomerantz, Jr. of Novato; a daughter, Jane Staw of Berkeley, and one grandchild.

NSF dedicates Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory at South Pole

Martin A. Pomerantz [Wikapedia biography]

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