In Memoriam: Seymour "Sam" Lindenbaum

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Posted: September 25, 2009

Sam Lindenbaum, whose distinguished career in BNL’s Physics Department spanned 45 years, died on August 17, 2009. He made numerous and diverse contributions to physics, beginning with the development of the Cosmotron’s first differential gas Cerenkov counters — particle selection devices still in use today — soon after he arrived at BNL and concluding with theoretical research related to measurements performed by the STAR collaboration just before his death.

Born in New York City, Lindenbaum earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University in 1945 and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University in 1949 and 1951, respectively. He was a research associate at Nevis Cyclotron Laboratories 1946-1951.

Lindenbaum joined BNL as an associate physicist on June 4, 1951. He soon began experimental research at the Cosmotron and proposed a theory known as the nucleon “isobar model” that explained the dominant features of high-energy pion production. He was promoted to physicist in 1954, received tenure in 1958, and became a senior physicist in 1963.

Lindenbaum designed the radiation protection shielding for the Cosmotron and proposed the basic parameters of the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS) shielding. He also was a consultant on many other high energy shielding projects.

In 1959, Lindenbaum formed and led a new group to develop a new approach to study basic high-energy interactions, which required handling a high data rate made possible with electronic detector arrays and the rapid automatic data processing of complex particle interactions. The team developed an on-line computing technique that fulfilled these requirements and, in 1962, he and his group performed the first on-line computer experiments at the AGS using sets of scintillation counter hodoscopes. As an outgrowth of the on-line computer experiments, the Physics Department established an “On-Line Data Facility,” which was used by both universities and BNL groups. Lindenbaum was the founding group leader of the facility.

During the 1960s, Lindenbaum and his group exploited this technique, building particle spectrometer systems linked to on-line computers that enabled the real-time monitoring of detector performance and increased data accuracy by a hundredfold. Using this apparatus, they performed experiments on particle production and dynamics. He and his group measured elastic scattering of particles produced by the AGS and investigated pion-nucleon forward dispersion relations, proving the validity of a basic axiom of modern relativistic field theory. They also found that a subatomic particle named the A2 meson was not split, settling the then controversial one peak vs. two peak mass distribution dispute, which helped to confirm the validity of the quark model of elementary particles.

In 1970, Lindenbaum became co-group leader of the Particle Spectrometer Group with his long-term collaborator, Satoshi Ozaki, who is currently Special Assistant to the Laboratory Director on Accelerator Projects. The Lindenbaum-Ozaki group, with help from university user groups, designed and constructed the Multiparticle Spectrometer (MPS) in the AGS, a 700-ton large acceptance particle detector, similar to a bubble chamber but outfitted with high-speed electronic detector systems that enabled scientists to observe interactions of 100,000 particles a second delivered to a target, allowing them to detect rarely occurring events.

“With Sam’s passing, BNL and the physics community have lost a great scientific thinker and a fountain of exciting ideas that have led to a number of experimental techniques, which are now taken for granted,” Ozaki said. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to receive his tutelage and to work with him in developing techniques for particle physics experiments.”

In 1970, Lindenbaum also became a faculty member at the City College of New York (CCNY), endowed by the Mark W. Zemansky Chair in Physics, while retaining a joint appointment at Brookhaven. He retired from CCNY in 1995, but held the title of Professor Emeritus at the college since 1998.

From 1976 to 1977, Lindenbaum took a leave of absence from BNL, to work for the Energy Research & Development Administration as Deputy for Scientific Affairs, High Energy Physics Program, Division of Physical Research.

Soon after his return to BNL, Lindenbaum and his team developed and tested an upgraded Multiparticle Spectrometer at the AGS, known as MPS II, which was ten times more powerful than its predecessor. Using the MPS II, the team discovered direct evidence for glueballs, hypothetical particles that are a predicted but as yet unobserved essential feature of quantum chromodynamics, a theory of nuclear reactions among quarks, the fundamental constituents of matter.

“Sam and I spent many hours trying to think of ways to find glueballs and ways to isolate strongly interacting gluons in heavy ion collisions,” recalled Ron Longacre, a physicist in the Physics Department.

Lindenbaum also worked on a time projection chamber, a device used for three-dimensional particle measurements, for a new relativistic heavy ion program at the AGS following the cancellation in 1983 of a proposed BNL accelerator called ISABELLE. During this period, Lindenbaum began to focus his attention on magnet design and detector technology for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider Project.

As a member of the STAR collaboration, Lindenbaum, along with Longacre, was interested in a theoretical interpretation of particle interactions at RHIC. They studied the fluctuations and correlations in relativistic heavy ion collisions to search for indications of “bubbles”  of quark-gluon plasma that might be created prior to the formation of hadrons. They had published a paper on their theory, and another paper was pending at the time of Lindenbaum’s death.

“Sam was a fierce defender of scientific freedom and an intense scientific researcher who enjoyed spirited and sometimes animated scientific and philosophical debates,” said Tim Hallman, Physics Department and STAR group leader. “He was doggedly persistent in pursuing his scientific interests and the tools needed to achieve them. And he would never give up fighting for something he believed in. Ever.”

Lindenbaum retired from BNL on June 16, 1996, but he returned in 1998 as a guest senior physicist to continue his research as part of the STAR collaboration. His brother, Stanley Lindenbaum; a niece, Karen Koevary; and a nephew, Michael Kimmel, survive him.

Last Modified: September 25, 2009