University of Texas
Marshall Nicholas Rosenbluth
February 5, 1927–September 28, 2003



Marshall N. Rosenbluth


Marshall N. Rosenbluth was born in Albany, New York, February 5, 1927 to Robert (1887–1975) and Margaret Sondheim (1896–1960) Rosenbluth. His brother was Lehman C. Rosenbluth, (1930–1992). who was a graduate of New York Community College of Applied Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, NY. He became an accountant in Chicago. He married Lois Collins in Bensenville, Illinois, USA, November 15, 1958 according to Presbyterian Church records. A civil ceremony may have taken place in Chicago on October 25, 1958.

While teaching at Stanford, Marshall Rosenbluth met and married Arianna Wright on January 26, 1951. They had four children, Alan Edward, Robin Ann, Mary Louise and Jean Pamela. Arianna was also a theoretical physicist. She received a BS from Rice Institute in 1946, an AM from Radcliffe and earned her doctorate from Harvard at the age of 22. Her thesis was entitled, Some Aspects of Paramagnetic Relaxation.She was supervised by Nobel Prize winner, John Hasbrouck Van Vleck. She was a post-doctoral student at Stanford when she and Marshall met. They collaborated for six years in developing the Monte Carlo technique for computer studies of the liquid state.

He later married Sara Unger, whom he met while a student at the University of Chicago. Sara, an artist, earned an AB and AM at Chicago. She was a lecturer at the University of Texas while they were in Austin. She has a successful career as an artist and teacher.

Background on Robert Rosenbluth, Marshall's father.

Robert Rosenbluth was born in New York City, January 17, 1887 to Selig Rosenbluth. Selig was born in Odessa, Russia and had emigrated from the port of Odessa to the US in 1878, becoming naturalized in 1885. Robert graduated in 1907 from Yale Forest School with a degree of master of forestry. After graduating from Yale, he served as Forest Assistant in the Philippine Islands (1907–1910) where he did notable work in exploration and orgainzation of the forest. After transfer to the United States and a year with the U. S. Forest Service in Utah, he was appointed forester for the Conservation Commission of the New York State and given the position of Director of Forest Investigations. In this position, he organized forestry practice on the lands of state institutions, establishing a reputation for efficiency and capacity to handle labor, and gained the trust and confidence of inmates of these institutions who were thus given opportunity for open air work.

At this juncture, he sought the advice of a member of this council as to whether he should continue in his profession, where he had excellent opportunities for advancement, or give it up to undertakc the service of caring for prisoners under the honor system. In this way, we know that his choice of his future work was made on the unselfish basis of accomplishing the most good regardless of personal advantage. Meanwhile, Rosenbluth had convinced the New York City Correction Department that his theory of using inmates as field workers could be applied in the case of young offenders. He was given authority to establish New Hampton Farm, to be located just south of the town of Middletown, NY, as a unit of the New York City Reformatory Program. The objective here would be to raise field crops, which could be used to feed inmates at the many other NYC penal institutions.

He resigned his position to take charge of the institution at New Hampton Farms, New York as an employee of Katherine B. Davis, Commissioner ol Corrections, in order to help try out the honor system there, after successfully launching this institution, instead of returning to forestry after expiration of his two-year commitment at New Hampton Farms, Rosenbluth accepted a position as assistant director of the Institute for Public Services headed by Dr. William H. Allen, one of the pioneers of what has become known variously as municipal research, performance measurement, and government accountability. His work for the Institute—what today we would call a think tank—occasionally involved analysis and recommendations concerning correctional systems in other states.

On the outbreak of the World War I, Rosenbluthl volunteered; was sent to Plattsburg: and was appointed first lieutenant in the Engineer Corps AEF, and went to France.
His ability in handling and training men earned him a captain's rank and he was sent back to help in the task of training the new army. While in this work, he was stationed at Camp Forrest, GA, where he first met Major Cronkhite and was personally selected by that oficcr for assignment to the 213th Engineers when that regiment was ordered to Camp Lewis. WA. where the accidental, self-inflicted death of Major Cronkhite occurred shortly after the arrival of the regiment at the post. A hearing determined that the death was an accident and that Major Cronkhite had discharged his pistol.

For two and one-half years after this occurrence, Robert Rosenbluth continued to devote his energies to public service as before. In 1919, after the Armistice, his first assignment was under Herbert Hoover for whom he went to Bucharest, Romania for relief work. Following the completion of that assignment, he went to Constantinople, Turkey on commercial business. His passport photo for this trip is shown at right.

Returning, he was employed by the Legislative Commission to reorganize the State Government of Ohio.







Then in 1920, on being urgently requested, he went to Siberia for the repatriation of the war prisoners for a joint committee of which Felix Warburg of New York was chairman. His passport photo is shown at right. He traveled to Siberia through Japan and China.

Upon returning, he was falsely charged with the murder of Major Cronkhite based on testimony, later retracted, by an aid to Major Cronkhite despite failure to determine any motive, or reliable testimony. Despite this, it was three years before Rosenbluth was completely exonerated of all charges. During this time, he received support from the Yale faculty, government officials and friends.

In 1925, Robert married Margaret Sondheim, daughter of Leopold and Bernice Sondheim of New York.Leopold managed a New York department store.

From 1928–1935, Rosenbluth served as NYS Department of Social Welfare Assistant Commissioner. He later moved to Chicago to serve as Assistant Director of Cook County (Chicago) Department of Welfare.






Professor Marshall N. Rosenbluth passed away on September 28, 2003, after a valiant two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer. During much of his last two years, he maintained a high level of productivity in his research activities as well in his scientific advisory roles, a testament to his strength of character that typified his entire life.

Marshall Rosenbluth was born in Albany, New York, on February 5, 1927. His intellectual gifts were already admired in Stuyvesant High School in New York City when he graduated in 1942. One of us (H. M.) met Marshall for the first time at this high school just as he was leaving to go to Harvard. Even then, he was one of the “heroes” of Stuyvesant, who was sought after by incoming students for advice and guidance. Subsequently, he received, in 1968, the Stuyvesant Alumni Achievement Award. His undergraduate college education was interrupted by his voluntary service in the U.S. Navy (1944–1946). He then returned to Harvard to graduate in 1946 with a BS (Phi Beta Kappa) diploma at the age of 19. Rosenbluth then attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, obtaining his PhD under the supervision of Edward Teller in the emerging area of high energy particle physics. His first post-doctoral position was as instructor at Stanford University (1949–1950), where he derived the elastic scattering cross section of electron off protons. This famous ‘Rosenbluth formula’ was the basis of the analysis used by Robert Hofstadter in his Nobel prize-winning experimental investigation.

He next joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a staff member from 1950–1956 to participate in the nation’s weapons program where he became a leading member of the team that developed the hydrogen bomb. During his career in Los Alamos, he began his life-long quest to develop controlled fusion into a viable energy source. In addition, he made fundamental advances in the use of computational algorithms as a tool for theoretical research. His pioneering work on the Monte-Carlo algorithm is the basis of many present-day calculations in physics, chemistry, and engineering.

In 1956, Rosenbluth joined a new nuclear energy research company, General Atomics (GA) in San Diego, in the position of senior research advisor. Together with his group at GA and collaborators from other laboratories, he addressed and solved many of the basic stability and transport issues that were needed to understand how to obtain good confinement of an ionized gas (a plasma) in a magnetic field to achieve net energy from controlled nuclear fusion. Rosenbluth was appointed professor of physics in 1960 at the new University of California of San Diego (UCSD) campus, which he then held jointly with the GA position. In 1964, he was the recipient of the E.O. Lawrence Prize awarded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Rosenbluth, together with Roald Sagdeev, then of the Soviet Union, co-directed an international plasma theory workshop in 1965-66 at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste. This workshop led to many new scientific contributions as well as an international camaraderie that remains significant to this day.

Rosenbluth accepted a professorship at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study in 1967. In addition, he served as a senior staff member of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and lecturer with rank of professor at Princeton University. In this period, he and his collaborators continually remained in the forefront of magnetic fusion confinement theory. The international program in controlled inertial fusion started during his stay at Princeton, and Rosenbluth contributed to many of the new theoretical insights that were needed in this newly-emerging field. He also developed a special post-doctoral program at the Institute, which became a ‘finishing school’ for many of the leading plasma theorists in the field today. In recognition of his contributions, Rosenbluth was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1969, and he was the second recipient of the James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics awarded by the American Physical Society in 1976.

In 1980, Marshall Rosenbluth moved to the University of Texas at Austin, as professor and director of the newly-formed Institute of Fusion Studies (IFS) that was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE) with matching funds from the University of Texas. During the seven years of his tenure at Texas, Rosenbluth led a beehive of scientific activity in many areas of plasma physics that included the understanding of how kinetic theory influences the behavior of magneto-hydrodynamic stability, the development of new concepts in nonlinear dynamics, and the development of new approaches in the description of plasma turbulence and transport. Marshall was appointed to the Fondren Foundation Centennial Chair in Physics in 1983, and he was a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Prize awarded by the Department of Energy in 1985. In 1987, the IFS organized a symposium to celebrate Marshall’s sixtieth birthday. Approximately 150 physicists from many countries (most being past collaborators) attended, and a book of this symposium, From Particles to Plasmas: Lectures Honoring Marshall N. Rosenbluth, edited by James Van Dam, was published. Symposium Photo Click Here.

Rosenbluth returned to San Diego in 1987 to be reappointed to his joint positions at GA and UCSD. He continued to be a leading contributor to new developments in plasma theory, and his counsel on scientific directions was frequently sought. During this period and until his last illness, he was an active member of the Fusion Energy Special Advisory Committee that advised DOE. In 1993, Rosenbluth retired from UCSD to become professor emeritus. Upon this retirement, he took on the responsibility of chief scientist of the Central Team for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) until 1999. His group analyzed in great detail the physics issues that needed to be addressed in the proposed magnetic confinement experiment that is expected to produce net energy from nuclear fusion. Naturally, Rosenbluth developed new insights and solutions of several unexpected issues that emerged during this design stage. In honor of his lifetime of contributions to science, President Clinton awarded Rosenbluth the National Medal of Science in 1997. One of Rosenbluth’s last activities to which he was deeply committed at GA was advancing new computational methods through the development of numerical simulation codes in order to describe plasma turbulence and transport on both large and small scales.

Marshall Rosenbluth’s choice for his principal discipline of study, the development of the principles in plasma physics to achieve practical commercial power from controlled nuclear fusion, was motivated by his desire that science be used to improve the well-being of society. Since Marshall had both breath and depth in many physics disciplines (these included space and astrophysics, statistical mechanics, laser and physical optics, high energy particle physics, accelerator physics, etc.), he frequently took ‘vacations’ and made important contributions to other fields. Examples include the following: producing a detailed analysis of the free electron laser and how its spectral intensity can be optimized, hiding from the CIA and KGB in Paris in the 1970s together with Roald Sagdeev so that they could develop the criteria for instabilities arising from laser-plasma interactions, and, more recently, producing an understanding of the focusing properties of light in negative refractive optical material. He had the ability to process information quickly and then make rapid and accurate calculations that usually solved a problem in a straightforward manner that was elegant in its simplicity. He actively sought to maintain the strength of the United States by annually attending the JASON meeting where scientific military problems were discussed. At the same time, he worked for world cooperation through activities that included attending meetings and participating in close collaborations with many Soviet scientists during the cold war; being among the first U.S. scientific visitors to China in the 1970s; and being a co-founder of the U.S.–Japan Institute for Fusion Theory, which was organized in 1980 when he came to The University of Texas.

He was often referred to as the ‘pope of plasma physics’ in recognition of his deep understanding of the field. Many scientists would go out their way to visit him in order to vent their ideas and receive his insights, which were always valuable to the progress of new scientific directions. He was modest in his demeanor, which enabled him to be an excellent mentor to young scientists who would quickly feel at ease with him so that they could readily discuss both scientific and personal matters. In 2000, he received the Nicholson Medal from the American Physical Society in recognition of his success in developing young scientists and his leadership in developing international scientific cooperation.

Rosenbluth’s interests and talents extended beyond scientific matters. He was facile with languages as well as interested in politics, sports, art, and music. He had a remarkable wit that often spiced up lectures, meetings, and parties. Indeed, his witticisms often displayed deep insight into particular situations.

Rosenbluth clearly enjoyed working with a host of collaborators, and he encouraged team effort in scientific activity. Moreover, his fellow scientists and collaborators enjoyed and felt extremely privileged interacting with him. His works, personality, and character will be long remembered.

Marshall Rosenbluth is survived by his wife, Sara, and four children from his previous marriage, Alan, Mary, Robin, and Jean.



Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin



Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty


This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Herbert L. Berk (chair), Hans Mark and Steven Weinberg.




New York Times

M. N. Rosenbluth, 76, an H-Bomb Developer Who Sought Peaceful Uses for Fusion, Is Dead


Marshall N. Rosenbluth, a pioneer in unleashing and taming nuclear fusion, the force that powers the sun and stars, died on Sunday in San Diego. He was 76.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, according to the University of California at San Diego, where Dr. Rosenbluth had taught.

A modest man whose insights were not as well known as those of more flamboyant colleagues, Dr. Rosenbluth as a young man, helped invent the hydrogen bomb, was exposed to radioactive fallout in a nuclear test and soon thereafter devoted himself to trying to harness thermonuclear fire for peaceful ends.

In 1997, he won the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, for contributions to nuclear fusion and plasma physics, the study of hot electrically charged gases like those in interstellar space and the atmospheres of stars.

Known as the dean of plasma physics, Dr. Rosenbluth was a world leader in trying to turn the hot plasmas of nuclear fusion into nearly limitless electrical power.

''Marshall was a scientist of towering stature,'' said Dr. Marvin L. Goldberger, a former president of the California Institute of Technology and a former director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

A warm, friendly person who liked opera and sometimes smoked a pipe, Dr. Rosenbluth won many friends among the physicists who came to dominate the nation's scientific life in the atomic era and won respect from them for his keen intellect.

''He was incredibly capable at analyzing problems and finding solutions to a great depth of understanding,'' said Richard L. Garwin, a physicist who worked with Dr. Rosenbluth on the hydrogen bomb.

Born in Albany, Marshall Nicholas Rosenbluth graduated from Harvard in 1946 and went to graduate school in physics at the University of Chicago, where many of his teachers had recently helped to invent the atomic bomb.

He liked to tell friends how Enrico Fermi and Edward Telle—two stars of 20th-century physics—got into an argument in 1949 while listening to him defend his doctoral thesis.

''It went on and on,'' recalled Harold Agnew, then a graduate student at Chicago, who eventually directed the weapons laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M. ''Finally, Fermi turned to Edward and said, 'O.K., you pass.' And then he turned to Marshall, who was just 22, and said 'O.K., you pass, too.'''

In 1950, Teller recruited Dr. Rosenbluth to join the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the young scientist did secret research that helped create the hydrogen bomb. Dr. Teller, considered the father of the bomb, credited Dr. Rosenbluth with important details of its design.

In 1952, preparing for the bomb's first explosive test, Dr. Rosenbluth went to the South Pacific. One night he ate too much shrimp and had trouble sleeping, as recounted in Richard Rhodes's 1995 book Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb.

Sleepless, Dr. Rosenbluth pondered the bomb's design and suddenly realized that the scientists had made a serious mistake that could result in a dud.

The problem was soon acknowledged and fixed with a new explosive core. When detonated, the hydrogen bomb vaporized a mile-wide island with power 700 times as great as the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

In 1954, again in the South Pacific, Dr. Rosenbluth was aboard a Navy destroyer when a hydrogen bomb test turned out to be unexpectedly strong and showered his ship with radioactive fallout.

''It was pretty frightening,'' he recalled in Mr. Rhodes's book. ''There was a huge fireball with these turbulent rolls going in and out. The thing was glowing. It looked to me like a diseased brain up in the sky. It spread until the edge of it looked as if it was almost directly overhead. It was a much more awesome sight than a puny little atomic bomb. It was a pretty sobering and shattering experience.''

Around this time, Dr. Rosenbluth joined a small group of scientists who developed the Monte Carlo simulation, now a standard research tool in statistical mechanics, chemistry, biochemistry and other fields. It involves random sampling to simulate physical systems.

Dr. Rosenbluth also turned his energies to the challenge of harnessing nuclear fusion for peaceful purposes. His dream was to find a way to compress fickle hot plasmas into stable configurations that generate excess power, a task that has been compared to using rubber bands to hold a blob of jelly.

In 1956, he joined General Atomics, a San Diego company that sought to pioneer fusion energy. He also taught physics at the University of California at San Diego, joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and directed the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas. He retired in 1993 as an emeritus professor of physics at San Diego.

In the cold war, Dr. Rosenbluth advocated science exchanges with the Soviet Union. ''The more interaction there is, the less paranoia,'' he said in 1985. ''The Russians certainly have shown a good deal of that.''

More recently, he worked to foster international teamwork in fusion and physics research. He was a central figure in the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and of the International Thermonuclear Reactor, a program to demonstrate the feasibility of using fusion to generate power.

For more than half a century, Dr. Rosenbluth aided the federal government, serving on panels like Jason, which is composed of eminent scientists who advise security agencies on knotty scientific issues.

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and received numerous awards, including the E. O. Lawrence Award, the Albert Einstein Award and the Enrico Fermi Award.

A resident of the La Jolla area of San Diego, Dr. Rosenbluth is survived by his wife, Sara, and four children from a previous marriage, Alan Edward, Robin Ann, Mary Louise and Jean Pamela.

With typical modesty, Dr. Rosenbluth made little fuss about his achievements on his faculty profile at San Diego. It was three sentences long.


Marshall N. Rosenbluth Photo and Document Album

Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Stuyvesant High School yearbook, the Indicator 1941, Marshall back row left.
Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Stuyvesant High School yearbook, the Indicator 1941, Marshall in back row left.
Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Harvard, 1946
Robert Rosenbluth. He graduated with a masters in forestry from Yale in 1907.

Robert Rosenbluth, autobiography, 1962


L-R: Niels Bohr; Marshall Rosenbluth; Lothar Nordheim
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Marshall Rosenbluth awarded the James Clerk Maxwell Prize at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in San Francisco, California
Date: November 17, 1976
Credit: Photograph by Constance Goodman, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
Inspecting the torus at John Jay Hopkins Laboratory's fusion research buildings are L to R: Richard Courant, Hideki Yukawa, Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Marcus Oliphant, Niels Bohr, Edward C. Creutz, and Donald W. Kerst, head of the fusion research program at General Atomic, a division of General Dynamics Corporation.
Date: circa 1959
Credit: General Atomic, Division of General Dynamics Corporation, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
nspecting the torus at the John Jay Hopkins Laboratory's fusion research buildings are L to R: Niels Bohr, Marshall N. Rosenbluth and Hideki Yukawa. In the background, is Donald W. Kerst, head of the fusion research program at General Atomic, a division of General Dynamics Corporation.
Date: circa 1959
Credit: General Atomic, Division of General Dynamics Corporation, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
L to R facing group: Sydney Chapman, Marshall Rosenbluth, Harold Grad, American Physical Society Press Conference, New Yorker Hotel, New York.
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
Marshall Rosenbluth,
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Marshall N. Rosenbluth,
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Marshall N. Rosenbluth, General Dynamics, San Diego, CA
Credit: General Dynamics, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
L-R facing group: Sydney Chapman, Marshall Rosenbluth, Harold Grad, American Physical Society Press Conference, New Yorker Hotel, New York.
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives
Marshall Rosenbluth,
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Marshall Rosenbluth, University of Texas at Austin
Marshall Rosenbluth,
Credit: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection
Marshall N. Rosenbluth, Reception on occasion of receiving Enrico Fermi Award, 1985


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