Gary Steigman 1941-2017

  Pictured at his retirement reception in 2012 with Jim Beatty (Physics Dept. Chair), Gordon Gee (President of OSU), and Brad Peterson (Astronomy Dept. Chair)

The following is the obituary from the New York Times:

Gary Steigman, an astronomer whose pioneering studies of the Big Bang helped show that most of the matter in the universe was not made of atoms — a finding that led to the modern conception of a universe awash in dark matter being pushed into an infinite night by dark energy — died on April 9 in Columbus, Ohio. He was 76.

Ohio State University, where he was an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy, said the cause was injuries he had suffered in a fall.

Dr. Steigman, a street kid in a big city turned astrophysicist, was a tall, curly-haired, gregarious straight talker who was not one to shy away from intellectual combat.

“He’s the only person I know who would use the word ‘bogus’ in a referee report,” said Robert Scherrer, of Vanderbilt University, referring to the peer reviews that papers go through before being published.

Dr. Steigman was one of the ringleaders of cosmology in an era in which astronomy and particle physics were merging. It was a time when scientists were asking giant questions about the cosmos — like why there are matter and galaxies — and seeking answers in the relationships between quantum particles, formed when the universe was a split-second old and ablaze with energies beyond the dreams of earthly particle accelerators.

The universe, Dr. Steigman and his colleagues liked to say, was the poor man’s particle accelerator.

The 1980s saw an explosion of ambitious new ideas about the universe, and Dr. Steigman’s work put him at the center of it — though with something of a calming effect.

As Michael Turner, of the University of Chicago, put it, “During the halcyon days of a new theory a week, when young scientists were having too much fun, Gary often provided the adult supervision and wise guiding hand.”

Gary Steigman was born in New York City on Feb. 23, 1941, to Charles and Pearl Steigman and grew up in the Bronx, a fan of the New York Giants baseball team across the Harlem River. He passed up taking the entrance exam for the selective Bronx High School of Science because he wanted to be “normal,” he once said.

Nevertheless, science and the universe beckoned. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the City College of New York in 1961 and then obtained a Ph.D. from New York University in 1968. It was there, in his thesis, working under Malvin A. Ruderman, that Dr. Steigman made his first contribution to cosmology.

According to all the laws of physics, when the universe was born in the Big Bang, elementary particles and their antimatter evil-twin opposites — with opposite charges and spins — should be produced in equal, counterbalancing amounts. But all that astronomers could see in the present-day universe was matter. Where did the antimatter go? Were there antimatter stars and galaxies hiding out there?

In his thesis, Dr. Steigman showed that a universe with equal amounts of matter and antimatter would not work. The universe, he concluded, must have become unbalanced in favor of matter in its earliest moments.

Cosmologists are still struggling to understand how that happened.

After research stints at Cambridge University and the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Steigman taught at Yale and at the Bartol Research Foundation, part of the University of Delaware, before joining the faculty at Ohio State.

He and his Great Pyrenees, Holly, spent many summers at the Aspen Center for Physics in Colorado, where scientists talk through problems over picnic tables under the trees and on hikes in the Rockies. Dr. Steigman was a longtime trustee of the center and a member of its advisory board.


Dr. Steigman became an expert in the study of the nuclear reactions that took place in the first three minutes of creation.CreditOhio State University

“This is a way you can enjoy a high lifestyle without a high salary,” Dr. Steigman told an interviewer one day over canapés at the home of a center benefactor.

He was recruited to Ohio State in 1986 to found a cosmology center, which would include both astronomers and physicists.

Around the same time, he began a romantic, interhemispheric relationship with a Brazilian astronomer, Sueli Viegas, from the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of São Paulo, whom he had met at a conference in Rio de Janeiro. They married in 2004, after Dr. Viegas had retired from São Paulo.

Dr. Steigman became an expert in the study of the nuclear reactions that took place in the first three minutes of creation. In those moments, the universe converted primordial hydrogen, the simplest element, into heavier elements like helium and lithium, which made up the first stars. (The rest of the elements needed to make planets and people would be manufactured in stars.)

It was in Aspen one day that he and a former office mate, David N. Schramm, of the University of Chicago, discovered that they had both made the same breakthrough: According to the Big Bang equations, the amount of primordial helium produced was crucially dependent on how many kinds of ghostly, nearly massless elementary particles there were in the universe.

At the time, particle physicists had suspected that there were three kinds, or generations, of neutrinos, each representing a different family of the elementary particles that make up nature. But as their particle accelerators had gone to higher and higher energies, they had discovered more and more generations.

Dr. Steigman and Dr. Schramm combined forces with James Gunn, now at Princeton, to write a paper declaring that based on helium abundances, there could be no more than seven families of elementary particles.

“The trend was for more numbers of neutrinos as accelerators went to higher energies,” Dr. Schramm recalled in an interview before his death in 1997. “We said the trend wasn’t going to continue. There was no statement from particle physics on the number of generations. It could be a thousand. For the first time cosmology was giving something back to physics.”

The physicists were at first amused at the astronomers’ invasion of their realm. But as the measurements of primordial helium got better and better, their prediction on the number of neutrino families shrank to about three, the number known today — a result confirmed by experiments at particle accelerators.

In collaboration with Dr. Schramm and others, Dr. Steigman continued to refine the Big Bang calculations and investigate their potential consequences for the universe.

One important result of their calculations was a determination that the amount of atomic matter in the universe fell far short of the amount needed to reverse its expansion and cause it to fall back together some day in a Big Crunch. This contradicted reigning theories that the universe was right on the border between eternal expansion and eventual collapse — a so-called flat universe.

In 1980, Dr. Steigman wrote a paper suggesting that massive neutrinos left over from the Big Bang might comprise the missing mass needed to flatten the cosmos. It was one of the first proposals for what became known as dark matter.

He, Dr. Turner and Lawrence Krauss, now at Arizona State, went on to write a prophetic paper in 1984 suggesting that all problems in cosmology could be solved by adopting an old idea — invented by Einstein in 1917 and later abandoned by him — known as the cosmological constant, a long-range cosmic repulsion force.

In 1999, two teams of astronomers discovered that the universe was expanding faster and faster with time, not slowing down, under the influence of some “dark energy” that appeared to behave exactly like Einstein’s cosmological constant.

In 2011, they won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

On November 15, 2017, an event entitled – The Ohio State University Remembers Prof. Gary Steigman was held in the Smith Seminar Room of the Physics Research Building.  This event was sponsored by the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics with opening remarks from Prof. Terry Walker (OSU) and talks by Robert Scherrer (Vanderbilt University), Keith Olive (University of Minnesota) and Michael Turner (University of Chicago).



Gordon J. Aubrecht II – 1943-2016

Long-time Ohio State Marion physics professor and OSU Emeritus Academy Professor, Dr. Gordon J. Aubrecht, II, passed away at his home in Delaware, Ohio Monday afternoon, November 21st.  He’d been informed that he had untreatable cancer in late September.  In an e-mail to Marion faculty and staff, Dr. Aubrecht said he was shocked by the diagnosis, noting he’d only taken one sick day in his 43 years of teaching at Ohio State Marion.  He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1971.  He was 73 years old at the time of his death.

“Gordon was dedicated to his students and shared his love of physics with hundreds of them through his tenure here,” said Ohio State Marion dean and director, Dr. Gregory S. Rose, “but he was also a scholar in all senses of the word, publishing numerous papers and writing a textbook titled Energy in 2005.  We will miss his intellect and personal energy on this campus.”

His close friend, Dr. Brian McEnnis called Aubrecht “a driving force” and “a central figure” in shaping Ohio State’s regional campuses.  He helped set up a regional campus council that represented the interests of the regional campuses to Ohio State’s central administration.  McEnnis said it was Dr. Aubrecht who insisted that faculty on the regional campuses be held to the same standards of research and scholarship as those employed in Columbus.

Dr. Aubrecht received Ohio State’s Faculty Award for Distinguished University Service in 2008.

In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Aubrecht was active in many organizations including the American Physical Society, the Association for University Regional Campuses of Ohio, and the American Association of University Professors.  In fact, at the time of his passing, he was the president of The Ohio State University Chapter of the AAUP.  Fellow member, Dr. Douglas Macbeth called him “a tireless defender of academic freedom and an energetic participant in University governance.”  Dr. Macbeth noted that “Gordon was passionate about physics and physics education.  He shared his knowledge beyond the classroom in his role as a public intellectual.”

For many years, Dr. Aubrecht was involved in helping high school and middle school science teachers develop an inquiry-based model for science education.  He was working on writing a book on the subject at the time of his death.

Ohio State Marion has established a fund to name the physics lab in the new science and engineering building rising on the campus in honor of Dr. Aubrecht.  A number of organizations, former students, and colleagues have contributed to the effort.  Those interested in contributing may do so by sending a check to the Ohio State University at Marion Development Office, 1465 Mount Vernon Avenue, Marion, OH 43302 made out to the Ohio State University Foundation, fund number 315649.  Online contributions may also be made at and designating fund 315649.

Dr. Aubrecht was laid to rest on Wednesday, November 23rd in a green burial service in Gambier, Ohio.

Prof. Hershel Hausman 1923-2015


Hersh-Hausman-001aProfessor Hausman was a beloved faculty member in the Department of Physics for many years.  In fact, one of his students, Norm Gearhart and his late wife, Carolyn Piper, endowed an office in the Physics Research Building in his honor. Following are his obituary and some memories former Chair, Les Blatt, provided us for use in preparing the Resolution in Memorial for the Board of Trustees.

Hershel  J. Hausman, Ph.D. passed away on August 5, 2015 in West Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 91.  Hersh was born on August 19, 1923 to David and Sophie Hausman in Pittsburgh, PA.  In 1942 at 18, Hersh enlisted in the Army Air Corp. and as a 1st Lieutenant in the 8th Air Force Bomber Group based in England, successfully piloted his “Buffalo Gal” B-24 bomber on 22 missions over the European Continent.  On September 22, 1934, Hersh was honorable discharged from the service with numerous medals and citations.  Upon his return to Pittsburgh after the war, Hersh attended Carnegie Mellon University where he received his N.S. and Master’s degrees in Nuclear Physics, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.  Hersh joined the faculty of The Ohio State University in 1952 and served as the supervisor of the Cyclotron Laboratory and later the Van de Graaff Laboratory until his retirement in

Buffalo Gal

B-24 “Buffalo Gal”

1989.  Hersh was a member of the American Association of University Professors, the American Institute of Physics, Sigma Pi Sigma, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Hersh was also a former member of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio.  He is survived by Korene, his loving wife of 71 years; three children, Herb, Sally (Eli), Will (Kate); sister, Evelyn Morris; sister-in-law, Rosalyn Stein; and four grandchildren, David, Alyse, Julianna and Mathew; as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.  He was preceded in death by his younger brother Jack Hausman and older sister Reva Rolnick.  A Memorial service was held at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel on Friday, August 14, followed by an Honor Military funeral at the South Florida Veterans Cemetery in Lake Worth.  Contributions in Dr. Hausman’s honor may be sent to Hospice of Palm Beach County or the charity of your choice. Continue reading