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LIGO MIT NewsLIGO Saddened By The Passing Of Marcel Bardon
On May of this year, LIGO, the National Science Foundation, and the world of science lost one of their notable members. Marcel Bardon passed away at the age of 70. Reprinted below is his obituary as published by the Washington Post Newspaper, and following it are some personal reflections by his friend and colleague, Dr. Rainer Weiss.
Marcel Bardon, 70, director of the physics division of the National Science Foundation and a photographer whose work was exhibited internationally, died of lymphoma May 20 at the clinical center of the National Institutes of Health. He lived in McLean.
Dr. Bardon was named division director in 1972 and later served as science attache at UNESCO in Paris and as deputy assistant secretary general for science at NATO in Brussels. He was director of international affairs at the foundation from 1991 until last year, when he resumed work as physics division director.
His photographs, including Cibachrome work, were shown here at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, where he had one-man shows, and at the Troyer, Fitzpatrick, Lassman Gallery.
Dr. Bardon was a native of Paris and a graduate of the Sorbonne. He moved to New York in the 1950s and later received a doctorate in physics from Columbia University, where he did research in high-energy physics. He published papers in that field.
His honors included the NSF Meritorious and Distinguished Service medals and two Presidential Awards. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.
Survivors include his wife, Renate Bardon of McLean; three sons, Oliver Bardon of Boston, Adrian Bardon of Amherst, Mass., and Roland Bardon of McLean; a brother and a sister.
All of us who interacted with Marcel have our own special recollections of him. I remember him best from the earliest days of the LIGO project when it was still only a concept. It is clear that Rich Isaacson had captured Marcel's imagination with gravitation as a subject of physics and not merely as a branch of mathematics. Marcel had a strong conviction that a healthy physics program needed two components. First, solid work in established fields, with ample scope for change in our present understanding of nature. And secondly, an element of risk-taking that could cause a revolution in physics should it prove successful.
After a study of a long baseline gravitational wave interferometer system was proposed to the NSF, and approved by peer review, I met with Marcel who was supportive and encouraging with good advice on ways to proceed. Most importantly, he was sincerely interested in understanding the types of science that could derive from the project. It was clear in his mind that strong field gravitation was a piece of physics worthy of its risks.
Once the project became part of the NSF program, Marcel was a staunch advocate, helping in many ways to lift LIGO over the various hurdles, both within the upper levels of the NSF and in Congress. Even during the very difficult times--when the project came under more than usual scrutiny by the physics and astronomy community, and then when it suffered internal dissension--Marcel remained a resolute proponent, providing sound advice on the best means to make progress. I wish he had lived to see the first data runs of LIGO and the first discoveries. I can only imagine it would have been a source of profound satisfaction for him.