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Obituary of Paul Klemens (1925-2012)

6 September 2012

Paul Gustav Klemens, an emeritus professor and former chairman of the University of Connecticut Department of Physics, passed away on July 26 at the age of 87. He was born in 1925 in Vienna, Austria, the son of Jewish parents who owned a textile business. At age 12, shortly after the Nazi-orchestrated Kristallnacht, his father was arrested and held in a concentration camp. When his father was released, the family fled to Australia in June 1939. He learned to speak English, and, demonstrating an aptitude for mathematics, won a scholarship to the University of Sydney, where he earned his B.S. degree in 1946 and his M.S degree in physics in 1948, In the same year, he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University, where he began to work at the Clarendon Laboratory on thermal conductivity and phonon scattering, in collaboration with R. Berman and F.E.Simon (PhD in 1950). He has remained faithful to this field throughout his entire life, and the numerous reviews of the subject he published over the years became sign posts for people entering the field. Over more than fifty years, he authored and co-authored more than 200 monographs, journal articles, reports and patents, and was the recipient of numerous professional awards, including the Y.S. Touloukian Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the International Thermal Conductivity Conference. While in England, he also met Ruth Wiener and her family, who were also Holocaust survivors. The couple married in 1950, and after that, they returned to his adopted country of Australia, where he became principal research officer at the National Standards Laboratory. In 1959, they emigrated to the United States, where he joined the Westinghouse Research Laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pa., heading a group that worked on an early version of what was later known as “Star Wars” missile defense technology. In 1967, he was appointed chairman of the University of Connecticut physics department, and the family moved to Manchester. During his tenure, he supervised 13 Ph.D. and many other graduate students and worked as a consultant for both industry and National Laboratories, including the U.S. Naval Research Lab and the Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. The 5th International Conference on Phonon Scattering in Condensed Matter recognized him for his work, as stated in the preface of the Proceedings: “ A citation was presented to Professor Paul Klemens of the University of Connecticut for his pioneering contributions to the physics of phonon scattering in solids” . During the 10th conference, held in Dartmouth in 2001, it was decided that future awards in that field would be called “Klemens Awards”. He was an elected member of the Washington, D.C.-based Cosmos Club, whose members are recognized leaders in the fields of science, literature, arts and politics. Also, he was a fellow with the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics (U.K.) A summary of his life would be incomplete without at least a brief statement about his personality. His friends and colleagues remember Paul as a kind and gentle man always ready to share with enthusiasm his insight into the theory of thermal transport. He was patient with and supportive of students (and colleagues). His papers were the first we consulted in attempts to understand transport phenomena; we were repeatedly impressed with the range of his studies. Beyond physics, Paul was always fun and interesting to spend time with. This note was authored by Paul’s family, friends and colleagues. We all will miss him! Q.Kessel, Sue Klemens, A.C.Anderson, R.O.Pohl, J.P.Wolfe

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