Remembering Maurice Glicksman

June 2, 2017
Credit: Brown University

Maurice Glicksman, an accomplished engineer, physicist and longtime Brown University faculty member who served as provost from 1978 to 1990, died on May 26 at age 88.

University President Christina Paxson shared the news in a letter to Brown faculty and staff on May 30.

“Professor Glicksman left an indelible mark on this University,” Paxson said. “He led the kind of consequential life that the University seeks to inspire in its graduates.”

Glicksman taught at Brown for 25 years, ultimately becoming University professor emeritus and professor emeritus of engineering and physics. He joined the faculty in 1969 after working at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) Laboratories in Princeton, N.J., and directing the RCA Laboratories in Tokyo. RCA’s semiconductor division was a focal point of Glicksman’s research.

“Through his research, Maurice Glicksman became one of the pioneers in advancing fundamental semiconductor sciences in the 1960s and ’70s when the challenge was to understand the electrical conductance of semiconductors such as silicon and germanium at high-electron densities,” said Arto Nurmikko, Glicksman’s colleague and a professor of engineering and physics at Brown. “Unraveling the interactions at microscopic level of such many-body systems then led, in turn, to the astonishing acceleration in the pace of development of transistor technology toward modern microelectronics.”

Glicksman’s arrival at Brown heralded an “expansion in condensed matter physics and engineering” at the University, Nurmikko said. Rodney Clifton, a professor emeritus of engineering, added that Glicksman, along with two colleagues, “really boosted Brown in solid-state physics and engineering.”

In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Glicksman served as chairman of the Faculty Policy Group, was appointed dean of the Graduate School in 1974 and acting dean of the faculty and academic affairs in 1975. He served in both capacities until he was named provost and dean of the faculty in 1978, posts he held until 1990.

“Professor Glicksman is associated with an initial wave of internationalization at Brown under former President Howard Swearer — resulting in the creation of new academic hubs and departments, such as the Center for Portuguese and Brazilian Studies in 1977 and the Department of East Asian Studies in the mid-1980s,” Paxson said. “It was around this time — just as he was named provost — that Professor Glicksman began to preside over the broad shift toward interdisciplinary scholarship, now a hallmark of a Brown education.”

Glicksman’s career also included leadership positions with groundbreaking research laboratories. In the 1980s and ’90s, he chaired the board of overseers of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), the leading particle physics and accelerator laboratory in the U.S. With this role he came full circle, having earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where he studied with Enrico Fermi, a leader on the team of physicists on the Manhattan Project for the development of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb.

Despite having a unique perspective on 20th-century scientific developments, however, Glicksman was known among his colleagues as a man who talked little about himself and expressed great interest in the work of others.

Brown Professor of Physics David Cutts said, “When we’d see each other, he’d always want to know how research in the physics department and particle physics was going.” Cutts said Glicksman was a generous listener and captivating in conversation because he was so knowledgeable and engaging.

Gang Xiao, chair of the physics department and professor of physics and engineering, said that Glicksman’s interest and encouragement meant a great deal to him while Xiao was a young physicist. So did his example of scholarship and services to the Brown and larger research communities, Xiao said.

“He was a wonderful colleague — just wonderful,” said Leon Cooper, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who directs Brown’s Institute for Brain and Neural Systems. “He was very knowledgeable and sympathetic and always available when you wanted to talk. I had many interactions with him; it was a pleasure to work with him.”

Away from campus, Glicksman served on the boards of more than 20 different organizations focused on science research, education, library science, health care, religious observance and community service. But Glicksman’s daughter, Marcie, said her father always remained proud of and committed to the University.

“Brown was a big part of his life, certainly —when he felt strongly about something, he was very committed.”

Funeral services were held on Monday, May 29, at Temple Emanu-El in Providence.


   Contact: Gillian Kiley   401-863-7287