In Memoriam: Michael Nauenberg (1934–2019)

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Department of Physics


Michael Nauenberg, professor emeritus of physics, passed away at his home on July 22, 2019. Nauenberg was born in Berlin, Germany, on December 19, 1934. He emigrated with his parents and siblings to Barranquilla, Colombia, in 1939 to escape persecution during World War II. When he moved to the United States, he studied physics as an undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to obtain his Ph.D. at Cornell University under the mentorship of the legendary physicist Hans Bethe. After a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Nauenberg was hired as an assistant professor at Columbia University. There he wrote one of the classic papers in quantum field theory with Tsung-Dao Lee. Their results, introduced independently by Toichiro Kinoshita, became known as the Kinoshita-Lee-Nauenberg Theorem.

Nauenberg came to UC Santa Cruz in 1966 as one of the pioneer members of the UCSC faculty. He played a crucial role in the development of the Physics Department in its early days, hiring a number of its members and helping to establish the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP). He encouraged the activities of a group of young researchers developing what has become known as Chaos Theory, and more generally pushed the department towards excellence in novel and established fields. Among his other contributions to the campus, Nauenberg was instrumental in developing both Stevenson and Crown Colleges, he served as the chair of the Physics Department from 1970 to 1972 and 1983 to 1985, and he played an important role in initiating the graduate physics program.

When Nauenberg retired in 1994, he saw it as an opportunity to continue his influential research in physics and pursue his long-standing passion for the history of science, focusing on the work of Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, and others. In 2013, he was honored with the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award in recognition of his academic achievements as an emeritus. Nauenberg also remained actively engaged in the campus as part of his deep commitment to advance academic excellence at UC Santa Cruz. He served as the Emeriti Faculty President in 1998 and 2015, and he followed developments in the physics department and the university at large throughout his life.

He is survived by his wife, Josette Nauenberg, his siblings, Eva Faillace, Uriel Nauenberg, and Lucrecia Sachs, his children, Peter Nauenberg, Maria Neumann, Tanya Nauenberg-Blakeslee, Sander Nauenberg, and Saskia Nauenberg Dunkell, and his many beloved grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations to the UCSC Emeriti Association for an annual Michael Nauenberg History of Science Lecture are welcome.