Campus & Community

Scientist, educator Ehrenreich dies at 79

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A pioneer in semiconductor materials and a Harvard professor for more than four decades, Henry Ehrenreich, Clowes Professor of Science Emeritus, died on Jan. 20, a few months before his 80th birthday. Ehrenreich served as the University’s first ombudsman and extended his academic interests to government and public policy, spending a year working with the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House and serving on several national and international panels.

“An enormous number of colleagues, friends, and students at Harvard and throughout the world have benefited from their interactions with Henry as well as from … the volumes he edited. His insights, wisdom, and thoughtfulness will be sorely missed,” said Paul Martin, John H. Van Vleck Professor of Pure and Applied Physics.

Ehrenreich received his B.A. (1950) and his Ph.D. in the emerging field of semiconductor physics (1955) at Cornell, where he also met and married Tema, his wife of almost 55 years. He then spent eight years at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y. In 1963 he was appointed a professor in the Harvard Division (now School) of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Over the course of his academic career, as the flood of uses of semiconductor devices continued to grow, he published roughly 200 papers,” said long-time collaborator Peter Pershan, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science. “He was a master at understanding, explaining, and predicting the electronic and optical properties of the ever-more-complex ingredients of these devices.”

At Harvard, Ehrenreich, a popular and widely praised researcher, mentor, and educator, did much to promote and improve undergraduate education in science and engineering, chairing the Science Center Executive Committee and the Core Committee on Science from 1987 to 1999. As director of Harvard’s Material Research Laboratory (now the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) from 1982 to 1990, he fostered enduring collaborative interdisciplinary courses and research programs.

Ehrenreich was editor or co-editor of more than 30 volumes of Solid State Physics, a renowned and widely consulted annual review of major advances in solid-state science and technology. He served on and chaired numerous national and international committees, including the Solid State Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics for 10 years and the Department of Defense’s DARPA Materials Council for 20.

Ehrenreich was also a skilled pianist. He developed his love for music early, thanks to his father, a choral conductor and music critic.

In addition to his wife, Tema, Ehrenreich leaves a daughter, Beth, two sons, Paul and Robert, and 10 grandchildren.

A service for Ehrenreich was held Jan. 22 at the Levine Chapels in Brookline, Mass. Donations in his memory can be made to the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.