March 26, 1931 - June 3, 2011
Last place of employment:
Syracuse, NY, US
Arthur Komar came to Syracuse University in 1957 as a postdoc with Peter Bergmann to do research on quantum gravity. Before coming to Syracuse, he spent a year at the Bohr institute in Copenhagen as a Fellow of the American-Scandinavian Foundation. He remained at Syracuse as Assistant Professor and Associate Professor until 1963 when he left to join the Physics Department at Yeshiva University in New York City. There he had a distinguished career, becoming Dean of the Graduate School of Science for a 10 year period, 1968-78. Artie then served as Chairman of the Physics Department until 1982 and from 1983-86 as Chairman of the Division of Natural Science. He remained at Yeshiva as Professor of Physics until his retirement in 1997. From 1984 until his retirement, he served as an Adjunct Professor at NYU. A year following his retirement, Artie returned to Syracuse to live with his longtime companion, Alice Honig.
Artie received his AB from Princeton University with a thesis reviewing the classical electron – a topic suggested by Fritz Rohrlich. His PhD dissertation, supervised by John Wheeler, was on “Some Consequences of Mach’s Principle for General Relativity”. As a graduate student, he also worked on the problem of invariants in general relativistic space-times. This became the search for observables in general relativity which occupied much of the years of collaboration with Peter Bergmann in their joint quest for a quantum theory for gravity. As long as his mental capacity remained, Arthur continued to wrestle with the problem of observation in general relativity and in quantum theory. But, his interests ranged over many issues including conserved quantities, time and space, and thermodynamics. In particular, he formulated the covariant Komar energy-momentum tensor in contrast to the non-tensorial quantity related to the Lagrangian of general relativity.
Close friends knew Artie as a renaissance man. He read widely about politics, history, archaeology, and plants. He remembered what he read and was happy to share that knowledge and appreciation with whomever would listen. Artie was particlarly pleased to have met Einstein when John Wheeler arranged a tea-time visit for his class .
While associated with Yeshiva, Artie took leave on three occasions to work with the National Science Foundation. During 1982-83 and 1986-87, he served as Program Director for Gravitational Physics. During 1991-92, he served as a consultant with specific responsibility for the LIGO project to observe and analyze gravitational radiation. Arthur Komar made a significant contribution to physics as an educator, as a research scientist, and as an administrator.
Joshua N. Goldberg