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Renowned Nuclear Physicist Lothar Nordheim

Lothar Nordheim, a world-renowned nuclear physicist who fled his native Germany in 1933 for the United States and later worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic weapon, is dead at 85.

Nordheim, a longtime resident of La Jolla who had worked as chairman of the theoretical physics department and was a senior research adviser at GA Technologies (formerly known as General Atomic Co.) from its founding in 1956 until his retirement in 1968, died Tuesday at St. Paul’s Health Care Center in San Diego after a long illness.

Born in Munich, Nordheim received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Goettingen in 1923. He is credited with making significant scientific contributions to the theory of resonance absorption of neutrons and to the operation of nuclear power plants.

During his career, Nordheim worked with the some of the world’s most prominent scientists in the 1930s and ‘40s, including Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, Arnold Sommerfield, Edward Teller, David Hilbert and Max Born.

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