In Memoriam: Marvin D. Girardeau

In Memoriam: Marvin D. Girardeau

By University Relations - Communications
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Marvin D. Girardeau
Marvin D. Girardeau

Marvin D. Girardeau, renowned quantum physicist and a research professor at the UA College of Optical Sciences, died on Jan. 13 in Green Valley, Arizona. He was 84.

Prior to joining the UA in 2000, Girardeau spent 37 years at the University of Oregon as a professor of physics and member of the Institute of Theoretical Science.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Case Institute of Technology – now Case Western Reserve University – in 1952; a Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1954; and a doctorate from Syracuse University in 1958. He held postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey; Brandeis University; Boeing Scientific Research Laboratories; and the University of Chicago. He also was a fellow of the American Physical Society and recipient of a 1984 Humboldt Prize.

Girardeau was foremost a many-body theorist, an expert in the quantum theory of many-particle systems. Among his research interests were the foundations of quantum mechanics of identical particles including fermions, bosons and anyons; Bose-Einstein condensation in liquid helium and dilute atomic gases; variational methods for quantum statistical mechanics; light-matter interactions; and quantum control.

Girardeau's work provided a notable example of the way in which theoretical physics can foster real-world experiments. In a 1960 paper, he provided a rare exact solution to the quantum mechanics of what is now called a Tonks-Girardeau gas, a cloud of impenetrable bosons moving in one dimension. However, it wasn't until 2004, after the development of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute atomic gases, that researchers were able to constrain atoms in two of the three dimensions and verify his results.

Ewan M. Wright, a colleague at the College of Optical Sciences, praised Girardeau's remarkable creativity and energy.

"Never one to follow the current fad, Marv did not back down from difficult problems. He produced a body of significant and lasting contributions over his career, publishing an impressive array of high-impact papers for more than a decade after his retirement to Arizona."

Outside of his interest in physics, Girardeau was also an amateur astronomer, winemaker, hiker, marathon runner and classical music lover who sang in local choirs and played violin. He is survived by his wife, Sue; daughters Ellen, Catherine and Laura; and four grandchildren.

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