Aron Bernstein: In Memoriam (Bolek Wyslouch)

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of a passionate physicist and humanitarian, our dear colleague Aron Bernstein. Aron was one of the pillars of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. He first came to MIT to work on the Cyclotron. This was still the time of small, room-size accelerators. There might have been five or so different fundamental and applied research machines on the MIT campus at that time. The Cyclotron was one of the earliest ones. When the opportunities with that machine dried out, Aron moved to work at Bates, at an accelerator in Mainz, Germany, and other places.

His scientific passion was always with the structure of the proton and the structure of many other hadrons.

During his scientific career, the zoo of hadronic particles and strong interactions was domesticated, classified, and understood within the Standard Model, with its building elements: quarks and gluons. He was fascinated by how the hadrons are built and how they “look” inside.

He was a real expert in the details of hadron structure. At some time long ago, my research touched his; I enjoyed talking to him about the effects of chiral symmetry and similar topics.

Aron was also a humanitarian. In particular, he was very concerned, and justly so, about the existential danger that nuclear weapons pose to life on Earth. He was an active member of several groups advocating for nuclear disarmament. He also noticed that as time passes, the knowledge of the dangers of these weapons dissipates. His initiative to educate young people was vital. While there are many other reasons to worry about the state of the world, the ready-made push-button method for significant destruction is probably on top of the list. He thought that we, as physicists need to educate and warn. As many of you know, MIT now has a course on nuclear weapons, led by Aron’s colleague Bob Redwine.

Aron was a very active physicist and a great colleague. It was always a pleasure to listen to him in the audience in the Kolker Room, quizzing speakers about their talks. He continued his research well into retirement, driven by his passion for science. He was one of the people who made LNS one of the world’s greatest centers of fundamental physics. He was a role model and example for generations of students, postdocs, and faculty who continue his legacy. I am very grateful for having an opportunity to meet and get to know Aron. We are missing you dearly.