TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR AVRAHAM YEHUDA GREENFIELD (1934-2016).
My relationship with Avi Greenfield dates back to 1948, when I was growing up in Detroit, Michigan. Because our ages were the same, as was our deep interest in science, Avi and I soon become close friends --a friendship that lasted a lifetime. We both completed our undergraduate degrees at Wayne State University in Detroit, and we both continued with our doctoral studies in physics at the University of Chicago, where the physics department faculty included two Nobel Prize winners.
My cousin Betty would visit us from New York from time to time together with her mother, who was my mother's sister. On one visit, I introduced Betty to Avi, and the rest is history. For over half a century, Betty was a devoted wife and unstinting helpmate. Her constant encouragement played no small part in enabling Avi to successfully carry out his many important projects.
Avi showed his creativity in science early in his research. One of the "hot" topics in condensed matter physics at that time was to study the unique properties of liquid metals by scattering beams off the metallic surface. This was the research project assigned to Avi by his doctoral thesis advisor. The standard experimental method then was based on neutron scattering. However, Avi was convinced that more accurate results could be obtained by using x-rays instead of neutrons. Avi's results based on x-ray scattering were so much more accurate than those of all previous researchers who used neutrons, that x-ray scattering has become standard in the field of low-angle scattering off liquidmetal surfaces. The fundamental importance of his doctoral research resulted in Avi being offered a position at Bell Laboratories, which was then the leading industrial laboratory in the world specializing in pure academic research. The Bell Labs physics research group was headed by Nobel laureate Philip Anderson.
At a later stage, I joined Avi in his research work. Our research collaboration proved to be extremely fruitful, and we published eighteen joint research papers in the course of several years. Avi soon became an internationally recognized leader in the field of liquid metals and was often invited to speak at international conferences on this topic.
It was a source of particular satisfaction and pleasure for me to be able to carry out scientific research in collaboration with my closest friend. The many exciting hours that Avi and I spent together, teasing out the secrets of nature, are among my most precious memories.
In 1967, Bar-Ilan University decided to begin a PhD program in physics. Avi and I, together with our colleague Moshe Luban, were invited to establish the research facilities for the planned doctoral program. We were all appointed professors and given the necessary research funds. Avi and I arrived in Israel on the same plane, and our wives and children arrived on the same ship, yet another sign of the closeness of our friendship.
Avi's creativity was not confined to science. Also in the realm of Torah, looking at problems in the standard way was not the approach of Avraham Greenfield. Under Avi's careful scrutiny, two long-standing puzzles in the Torah world found ingenious solutions, as described in detail in the accompanying tribute. Avi published over twenty articles describing the results of his various analyses in the realm of Torah. His fascinating articles have been compiled by his family into a single volume, entitled "Middah k'neged Middah."
Setting aside many hours for studying Torah commentaries came naturally to Avi. Just as physics research was not just a means of making a living, learning Torah was not just a mitsvah to be fulfilled. Torah research and physics research were both the very essence of Avi's being. These were not two independent activities in his eyes, but two sides of the same coin. Maimonides wrote, "How does one fulfill the mitsvah of loving G-d? Studying the wonders of nature and observing His infinite wisdom will immediately lead one to love G-d" (Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah 2:2). This describes how Avi viewed his scientific discoveries. Indeed, Professor Greenfield personified the ideal of Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch of pursuing Torah together with professional work.
Last, but not least, mention must be made of Avi's outstanding personal qualities. He was the epitome of a gentleman. Kindness and thoughtfulness were an integral part of his nature. He was a wonderful family man, whose wife and children meant everything to him. The prophet Micah said (6:8): "What does the L-rd want of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly." There is no better description of Professor Avraham Yehuda Greenfield.
PROFESSOR NATHAN AVIEZER
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2017|
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