Arnold Perlmutter (1928 - 2017)

  • "Some good memories from years back. RIP dear Arnold."
    - Linda Scott
  • "Sincerest condolences to Arnold's family from across the..."
    - Maggie Richard
  • "Such vivid memories of Arnold, such a gentle character and..."
  • "My deepest sympathy to the Perlmutter family. Arnold was a..."
    - Leonardo Rodriguez
  • "I had Physics 101 with Dr. Perlmutter as a 26 year post doc..."
    - Kathryn Villano

Arnold Perlmutter, a physics professor at the University of Miami for over six decades, died at South Miami Hospital on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, after a short illness. He was 89. He taught physics at the University from 1956 until his retirement in 2002, when he assumed emeritus status. He arrived in Coral Gables when the Physics Department offices and labs were housed in World War II army surplus shacks on the edge of campus. His crowning career achievement was the Center for Theoretical Studies, an influential forum at the University for studies in theoretical physics and related fields, which he helped to establish and co-directed with his long-time colleague, Behram Kursunoglu. The Center operated from 1965 to 1992, and it provided a forum for collaboration among scientists, including 35 who had won or went on to win Nobel Prizes. One of the Center's first visitors was J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped promote the Center's reputation and participated in its Orbis Scientiae conferences. Other visitors included theoretical physicist P.A.M. Dirac, physicist and novelist C.P. Snow, and chemist Lars Onsager. Dr. Perlmutter was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on November 4, 1928. His parents were Luba and Ben Perlmutter who immigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe in the 1920s. His mother was a pharmacist who encouraged his studies in science. He was educated at UCLA and NYU, where he earned his doctorate. While in graduate school, he taught at Cooper Union and Brooklyn College. After beginning his career at the University of Miami, he collaborated with the eminent experimental physicist Marietta Blau. He taught or visited at many universities and research institutions around the world including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Boston University, University of Chicago, CERN, Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories, University of Trieste, London Imperial College, University of Torino, Istanbul University, Kiev University, University of Adelaide, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In his classes and many social interactions with anyone he met—whether it was his barber, bartender or waitress—he conveyed deep knowledge and infectious enthusiasm over the latest discoveries in particle physics, field theory and cosmology. Beyond his scientific achievements and interests, Arnold had a broad curiosity about the social sciences, humanities, opera, chamber music, arts and literature. He was a world traveler and was conversant in several languages, including Yiddish which he learned in his parents' home and studied throughout his lifetime. He translated the poems and prose of an uncle, Avram Liessin, a distinguished Yiddish literary figure and political activist in the early twentieth century. Late in his life, Arnold and his wife Lynn travelled to Madrid to visit the El Prado Museum for an exhibition of works by Goya. Arnold was a passionate, lifelong believer in social justice, civil rights and humane equity. Rather than a religious Jewish upbringing, his life was guided by the intertwining of the humanitarian and cultural values of Judaism. This steered him, along with a large like-minded transplant community of close friends, to liberal and social justice causes in South Florida and beyond. Dr. Perlmutter is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lynn Meyer; his two sons, Bernard (Pamela Chamberlin) of Miami, and Joseph (Abbie) of Seattle; and three stepchildren, Evan Slavitt, Sarah (Scott) Bryce, and Joshua (Nadine) Slavitt. His first wife, Ruth Perlmutter Kates, passed away in 2004. Among his proudest achievements were his twelve grandchildren and the beginning of a generation after them. He is survived by grandchildren Leah (Ian Murray), Daniel and David Perlmutter; Isaac (Amanda Hadad), Hannah, Tamar (Kevin Nieves), Sam, Shoshana and Sydney Slavitt; and Elena (Yoni Pomeranz), Nina (Soltan) and Tatiana Bryce; and his great-grandchild Noah Slavitt. Services will be held in the Library on the third floor of the UM Knight Physics Building on Sunday, December 17, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, the Physics Department or Gifford Arboretum at UM, and Women's Emergency Network.
Published in the Miami Herald on Dec. 14, 2017
Arrangements under the direction of:
Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels at Mount Nebo (Kendall)
5900 SW 77th Ave | Miami, FL 33143 | (305) 274-0641
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