Robert F. Christy
May 14, 1916 - October 3, 2012
Last place of employment:
Pasadena, California, US
Robert F. Christy, who passed away October 3 at the age of 96, was a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech from 1946 to 1985. He served as Caltech's faculty chair from 1969 to 1971, as vice president and provost from 1970 to 1980, and as acting president from 1977 to 1978.
One of the early recruits to Los Alamos Laboratory, he helped design the trigger mechanism for the atomic bomb.
At Caltech, he worked in nuclear physics, first with cosmic rays and later in astrophysics, investigating the mechanisms driving the pulsations in the brightness of RR Lyrae stars, which are used as yardsticks to measure cosmic distances. He won the Royal Astronomical Society's Eddington Medal for this work. Christy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965.
Christy's wartime experience led him to oppose the further development of nuclear weapons, and in the mid-1980s he became a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Dosimetry, which studied the radiation effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
Written by Douglas Smith
Physics Today Staff