Obituary: Michael Friedlander, professor emeritus of physics, 92

Michael Friedlander
Michael Friedlander at Washington University Commencement in May 1982. (Photo: David Friedlander)

Michael W. Friedlander, professor emeritus of physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Thursday, April 29, 2021, in St. Louis. He was 92.

Born Nov. 15, 1928, in Cape Town, South Africa, Friedlander earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with honors, from the University of Cape Town and his PhD from the University of Bristol, England. He remained at Bristol as a junior faculty member, then came to Washington University in 1956 to replicate the cosmic ray laboratory that he had known at Bristol. Friedlander was promoted to full professor at Washington University in 1967.

Friedlander’s research concerned cosmic rays and related infrared and gamma ray astronomy, and he was an original member of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences. At Washington University, Friedlander was beloved by his students and active with university affairs, serving as chair of the Faculty Senate. He oversaw the Crow Observatory at Washington University for several decades and served as chairman of the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences from 1984-86. He also was president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and vice president of the national AAUP.

Friedlander was an active member of the Committee for Nuclear Information, which — through its Baby Tooth Survey — advocated for the above-ground Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

He initiated a lecture series for the St. Louis community, the Saturday Science Public Lectures, which continue to be enjoyed and well attended. Friedlander also was an author, publishing textbooks and some books aimed at a general audience.

“Mike was a dear friend and valued mentor to me throughout my time here at Washington University, and I know others who would say the same,” said Martin Israel, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences. “In addition to being an accomplished physicist and astrophysicist, he was an outstanding citizen of the Department of Physics and of the Washington University community.”

Friedlander is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jessica Friedlander, of St. Louis; children Rachel (Neil) Tickner, of Silver Spring, Md., and David (Sheryl) Friedlander, of Kensington, Md.; and three grandchildren.

Read more on the physics website or in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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