Remembering Art Poskanzer, experimental physicist who co-discovered collective flow

Poskanzer, 90, won the Bonner Prize in Experimental Nuclear Physics. He was a supporter of Berkeleyside and the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association and created a free online guide to dining in Berkeley with his wife, Lucille.

Art Poskanzer. Credit: Poskanzer family

Art Poskanzer, June 28, 1931 — June 30, 2021

Arthur Poskanzer, an early and consistent supporter of Berkeleyside, died on June 30, two days after his 90th birthday. He was surrounded by his loving family and the end was peaceful. The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, which affected him for 19 years.

Art and his family moved to Berkeley in 1967 during some exciting times, and they never left. He joined the nuclear science division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he remained for over 50 years. He was designated as a distinguished senior scientist, and became emeritus after his retirement.

Art was a pioneering nuclear physicist in the field of high energy relativistic nuclear collisions, a co-discover of collective and elliptic flow, essential experimental evidence leading to the discovery of the Quark-gluon plasma, “an ephemeral state of matter believed to have existed in the first few microseconds after the universe was born.” In his earlier scientific career, he was noted for the discovery of isotopes far from stability which were predicted not to exist.

He was the recipient of many awards and honors, among them the 1980 Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry from the American Chemical Society and the 2008 Tom W. Bonner Prize in Experimental Nuclear Physics from the American Physical Society for his “experimental studies of flow in Relativistic Heavy Ion Collisions.” He is one of very few scientists to win awards from both organizations.

Art was known for the rigor and excellence of his scientific papers, some of which became seminal to his field, with many, many citations.

But despite all the honors, Art was modest and humble, always willing to encourage and talk to younger scientists. They were impressed with his computer skills, writing code and developing programs well into his 80s.

Art loved Berkeley. He was an early supporter of the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association and enjoyed the programs and neighborhood walks of the Berkeley Historical Society. He spent many hours hiking and biking in Tilden Park.

He and his wife, Lucille, along with their sons, created a guide to restaurants in Berkeley and Oakland that was available to everyone free online. They maintained this site until just recently, and it was a great resource for the community.

Art leaves Lucille, his wife of 67 years; children Deborah (spouse, Alan Meier), Jef (who is a frequent contributor of photographs to Berkeleyside) and Harold (spouse, Marjorie Wechsler); and four grandchildren.

He had a wonderful life.