NRL's Dr. Herbert Friedman Dies at 84

9/11/2000 - 58-00r
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Dr. Herbert Friedman, 84, Chief Scientist Emeritus of NRL's E.O. Hulburt Center for Space Research at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), died on Saturday, September 9 at his home in Arlington, Virginia, following a battle with cancer. Dr. Friedman worked at NRL for 60 years.

Dr. Friedman began his distinguished career at NRL in 1940 as a research physicist in the Metallurgy Division. His early work involved x-ray spectroscopy, and the development and application of radiation detectors. Dr. Friedman designed and adapted x-ray spectrometers for use in the manufacture of quartz crystals. This work resulted in a tremendous savings in the fabrication of quartz crystal oscillators, which were indispensable to Fleet operations during World War II. Dr. Friedman also collaborated in the development of an atmospheric radioactivity surveillance system used to detect debris from the first Russian atomic bomb test.

Dr. Friedman was widely recognized for developing the science of rocket astronomy, having conducted his first rocket experiment using a captured German V-2 rocket in 1949. Data were obtained from Dr. Friedman's experiments that proved the direct relationships between solar x-ray variability and the strength of the Earth's ionosphere. During the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in the late 1950s, Dr. Friedman led two major experiments involving rocket launchings from naval vessels. The first showed that solar flares emit hard x-rays that produce shortwave radio blackout; the second used a total solar eclipse to isolate x-ray sources in coronal condensations. Experiments conducted by Dr. Friedman produced the first x-ray photographs of the sun. And, in another first, measurements of the ultraviolet fluxes of early-type stars, obtained by Dr. Friedman using small mirror telescopes, produced the first catalogue of bright ultraviolet stars.

From the early 1960s, Dr. Friedman's efforts were primarily devoted to mapping the sky for celestial x-ray sources. By observing the lunar occultation of the Crab Nebula in 1964, he obtained the first identification of a discrete x-ray source with a known celestial object. He led the team that discovered the first extragalactic x-ray sources; the elliptical galaxy M87 and the distant quasar 3C273. In 1968, he obtained the first evidence of x-ray pulsations from the neutron star in the Crab Nebula.

Dr. Friedman was a principal investigator for the NRL experiment on NASA's High Energy Astronomy Observatory mission of the 1970s that produced an all-sky catalog of about a thousand sources and showed their classification into a variety of objects. After his retirement from the Laboratory in 1980, as Superintendent of NRL's Space Science Division, Dr. Friedman served as Chief Scientist Emeritus.

Through the years, Dr. Friedman devoted many hours of service to national and international scientific organizations. He served on over 60 scientific advisory committees. In 1960, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and served on or chaired many NAS, National Research Council and Space Science Studies Board panels. He was a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1971-72, and served on the General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission from 1969-1974. Dr. Friedman was Vice President of the Committee on Space Research from 1971-1975.

Dr. Friedman was a member of the NAS, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1996, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, NRL awarded Dr. Friedman its Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest local honor that an NRL Commanding Officer can confer on a civilian employee.

Dr. Friedman also received many other awards and recognitions during his career. Among those were included; the 1996 Cosmos Club Award, the President's Distinguished Federal Civilian Service Award; the National Medal of Science; the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society; the Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union; the Wolf Prize in Physics from the Wolf Foundation in Israel; and the 1992 Massey Award from the Royal Society of London, in association with the International Council of Scientific Unions' Committee on Space Research.

Dr. Friedman, who earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, held 50 patents, authored or co-authored over 300 scientific publications and wrote three books, The Amazing Universe, Sun and Earth, and The Astronomer's Universe.

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