Robert L. Fleischer

Fleischer, Robert L. SCHENECTADY Robert L. Fleischer, 80, of Schenectady, died Thursday, March 3, 2011 at Ellis Hospital with complications of cardiac amyloidosis. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he moved to Boston to attend Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D in applied physics. Following a time as assistant professor of metallurgy at MIT, he moved to Schenectady and spent most of his career (32 years) at General Electric Research Lab, starting in the 1960s in what he called the "Golden Age" of research. Most recently he was a research professor of geology at Union College and continued to value this association through the rest of his life. While he had a sharp and probing mind in science, he particularly treasured his family and lifelong romance with his wife, Barbara, of 56 years, leaving her daily love notes before he went to work. He was kind, considerate, perceptive, smart, wise and funny. His presence brought a sense of purpose and comfort; steady, resourceful, optimistic, respectful, and genuine. Known locally as an incessant punster, he was good natured, and better than a GPS at giving directions or predicting arrival times of trains. When he spoke, you knew you should listen, if only to know when to groan at his puns. His early seminal work at GE was on hardening of solids and later work was on nuclear tracks in solids. This latter field brought with it extensive collaborations in multiple disciplines. He and his colleagues designed the cosmic ray detector taken to the moon and back by the Apollo 16 astronauts, studied the damaging effects of cosmic rays on moon rocks and dated meteorites and archeological specimens. He has published over 350 scientific papers and held 19 patents. His track work led to two companies founded by GE (Nuclepore:thin membranes with holes of cleanly specified sizes, and Terradex: radon measuring for home safety or for locating shallow deposits of uranium in the ground). Some of Bob's many awards include the American Nuclear Society's Special Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Nuclear Science in 1964, the U.S. Atomic Energy commission's E.O. Lawrence Award in 1971, and NASA's Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1973. He was presented with GE's R&D Center's Coolidge Fellowship Award in 1972 for sustained technical contributions and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He coauthored Nuclear Tracks in Solids, wrote Tracks to Innovation and co-edited book sets on intermetallic compounds. Bob leaves behind his beloved wife, Barbara; his two daughters, Cathy (Michael Boroson) of Rochester, N.Y. and Elizabeth of Pittsburgh, Pa.; his brother, Richard (Charlotte Roffman) of Delray Beach, Fla.; and two grandchildren, Daniel and Allison. He was deeply happy with his daughters and the lives they have chosen. Bob felt that their entering science was not caused by any urging on his part, but was encouraged by their observing the pleasure he took from his work. Friends and relatives are invited to observe a period of remembrance Sunday and Monday, March 6 and 7, at 7 p.m. at 1356 Waverly Place, Schenectady, NY 12308, starting with a brief service. A memorial service will be held Sunday, March 13, 1 p.m. at Congregation Gates of Heaven, 852 Ashmore Ave., Schenectady, NY 12309, followed by calling hours at 1356 Waverly Place. Donations can be made in Bob's memory to The Northeastern New York Chapter, Inc. (440 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY 12205), Congregation Gates of Heaven, the Amyloid Treatment and Research Program, Boston University School of Medicine (72 East Concord Street, K-503, Boston, MA 02118), or a charity of your choice.

Published in Albany Times Union on Mar. 5, 2011