Jerry Gollub 1944–2019
The Professor Emeritus of Physics and the former John and Barbara Bush Professor of Natural Sciences died on June 8. He was 74.
Jerry Gollub, professor of physics emeritus, died Saturday, June 8, with family at his side. He suffered a devastating stroke in 2012.
Gollub joined the Haverford College faculty in 1970 after completing his undergraduate degree in physics at Oberlin College and his Ph.D. at Harvard University. A member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1993, Gollub was a world-renowned researcher whose work focused on “chaos,” studying the unpredictable behavior that occurs in fluid motion and granular materials, which then provided insight into both ordered and disordered patterns in nature, such as earthquakes and weather. He was an international leader in the field of nonlinear dynamics and fluid dynamics and taught courses at the College in introductory physics, quantum physics, fluid dynamics, and solid state physics. He was the author of a textbook on chaotic dynamics, and published more than 110 research articles and reviews.
Gollub’s awards and honors are numerous and include a 1984 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1985 American Physical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution (he was its first recipient), the 1994 Science for Art Vinci Excellence Award for the potential artistic applications of research to craftmanship or industry, and the 2003 Fluid Dynamics Prize of the American Physical Society. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1992 and a member of the National Research Council’s Board on Science Education.
Students described him as a brilliant expositor whose classes were “challenging, but unusually clear, well prepared and fascinating.” To many faculty members, he was a generous, dynamic, and highly insightful colleague. Said departmental colleagues Walter Smith, Suzanne Amador Kane, and Ted Brzinski in a joint statement: “Jerry was a ‘larger-than-life’ figure at Haverford and in the physics department. He was a true leader in the fields of fluid dynamics and granular materials, and when any of us would mention to a physicist that we were from Haverford, they almost always responded, ‘Oh, that’s where Jerry Gollub is, right?’ For most of his time at Haverford, he was also an adjunct professor at Penn, and greatly strengthened the connection between our departments. He usually had one or two grad students from Penn and a postdoc working with him, adding important dimensions to the life of physics at Haverford… Jerry leaves behind a legacy of dozens of professional scientists who were undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs in his group. We will always remember Jerry with a smile on his face and dedication to Haverford in his heart.”
That legacy was on display in May 2011 when the College hosted a conference in honor of his remarkable 40-year career as a physicist , which was attended by more than 100 scientists from around the globe. (At the time, Gollub downplayed the attention, noting, “Of course it is nice to be honored this way, but the best part is that the meeting is an opportunity for fruitful scientific interactions among people who are excited about their work.”)
His decades of service to Haverford College included numerous roles, including chair of the physics and astronomy department, chair of the Educational Policy Committee, and, from 1988 to 1990, as provost. He had been retired since his stroke, but still regularly visited campus and, in particular, the Gilbert White Science Library.
He is survived by his wife Diane Nissen, a son, a daughter, and grandchildren.
His funeral service will be held on Tuesday, June 11, at 2:00 pm at Beth am Israel in Penn Valley (1301 Hagys Ford Road). Friends are welcome to attend shiva at his wife’s home Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening (contact alumni [at] haverford.edu for details).