rglauber 90 1419Glauber

Arlington resident Roy J. Glauber, who shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics and who had been recruited as an 18-year-old to join the Manhattan Project during World War II, died Dec. 26 in Newton-Wellesley Hospital of respiratory failure. He was 93.

Glauber said in 2005 that he suspected a prank when the phone rang at 5:36 a.m. and a voice with a Swedish accent said he would share that year’s Nobel Prize in physics. “I could scarcely believe him,” Glauber said, according to an obituary at BostonGlobe.com

At the time, Glauber was an 80-year-old Harvard University professor. The Nobel was for work he had done more than four decades earlier — an influential paper he published in 1963 that furthered the understanding of how matter and light interact.

Despite prize news, he taught

Glauber had other work he wouldn’t set aside, even though he was suddenly in the international spotlight. A devoted and passionate teacher of students at all levels, he arrived right on schedule to teach “The Atomic Nucleus on the World Stage” — a freshman physics class.

The Nobel committee said Glauber’s half of the 2005 physics prize was “for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.” John L. Hall and Theodor W. Hansch shared the other half “for their contributions to the development of laser-based spectroscopy.”

Glauber’s research “helped clarify how light could have both wave and particle characteristics, and explained the fundamental differences between the light emitted by hot objects, such as electric light bulbs, and the light emitted by lasers,” the Optical Society said in a memorial tribute posted online.

Nobel levity

Known for his humor in and out of the classroom, Glauber added a little levity to the beginning of his Nobel lecture, when he accepted the award two months after being awakened by that early morning call.

“We have had light quanta on earth for eons, in fact ever since the good Lord said, ‘Let there be quantum electrodynamics’ — which is a modern translation, of course, from the biblical Aramaic,” he quipped.

For many years, Glauber was also a regular at the irreverent Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard, where annual awards recognize quirky scientific achievements. He was the keeper of the broom — sweeping paper airplanes from the stage — and sometimes handed out the prizes.

The Mallinckrodt professor of physics emeritus at Harvard, Glauber taught there and at other schools for more than 65 years. He attended a conference in Barcelona just last summer, and “literally only retired from Harvard last year,” said his daughter, Valerie Glauber Fleishman, of Newton.

Into his 90s, Glauber still accepted interview requests from young students who were preparing science or history projects — he spoke with some of them via Skype. “He just loved supporting young people and he was completely dedicated to advancing education and science,” his daughter said.

Although “some professors will only teach graduate students, he taught undergraduates, he taught freshman core curriculum courses, he even taught in the extension school,” said his son, Jeffrey Glauber of Doylestown, Pa.

Teaching included high school students

At one point, Glauber gave lectures one night a week to students from 24 high schools, providing “a panoramic view of the structure of light and of matter.” It was a version of Harvard’s “waves, particles, and the structure of matter” core curriculum course for non-science majors. “The course itself is not intended to be very formal; it is meant to be as enjoyable as it is instructive,” he told the Globe in 1988.

The older of two children, Glauber was born in New York City on Sept. 1, 1925. His father, Emanuel Glauber, was a traveling salesman. His mother, Felicia Fox, had studied to be a teacher.

Glauber was in the first class to graduate from the Bronx High School of Science, and received an award for outstanding achievement. Several months earlier, he had created telescopes for a science contest.

Where that 'interesting work' was

Having skipped a couple of grades, he turned 16 in the fall of 1941 as he entered Harvard. In October 1943, when Glauber was barely 18, “a stranger in a dark suit appeared in the physics department office evidently asking for me,” he wrote in his Nobel biography. The man offered the chance to engage in “interesting work” somewhere “out west.”

That turned out to be the Manhattan Project. Glauber worked in the theory division and witnessed the Trinity Test of the first nuclear weapon. He recalled seeing the bomb’s flash “and some of the glow that followed from a distance of over a hundred miles.”

In 1960, he married Cynthia Rich. They had two children and their marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Subsequently, he raised his children as a single parent, an experience he described as “immensely rewarding.”

A private burial will be held for Glauber, who in addition to his children leaves his sister, Jacqueline Gordon of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; Atholie Rosett of Cambridge, his girlfriend during his final 13 years; and five grandchildren.

2010 theft makes town news

Glauber also made local news in 2010. A YourArlington.com story titled "Arlington police track down suspect nabbed in Nobel theft" tells the tale.

Following sharp detective work by Arlington police, a Maine man has been held in a March break-in at Glauber's Spy Pond home, but the 2005 prize he won is missing. Stephen Beaulieu, 42, of Skowhegan, Maine, a drifter, has pleaded not guilty to breaking and entering and remains jailed in Cambridge in lieu of bail.

“Clearly, the victim and the alleged perpetrator in this case are on opposite ends of the IQ spectrum,” Arlington police Chief Frederick Ryan said at the time.

Police continue to look for Glauber’s Nobel Prize for his work on the behavior of light, as well as a Nobel replica and a Spanish Academy of Sciences Gold Medal.

The police report says Beaulieu admitted to breaking into the home and sleeping there March 6 and 7. He told police he took some coins and money, but that he did not take the Nobel Prize.

Legendary Locals of Arlington (Arcadia, 2015) by Marjorie Howard and Barbara Goodman includes a photo and notice about Glauber, which summarizes the scientific achievements details reported here.

This news summary was published Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.