Orange Alert

My Memories of Professor Henry Levinstein

Posted on: May 5, 2022

Physics alumn Al MacRae (’54, G’57, ’60 PhD) takes us down memory lane by sharing a few of his memories.

One of the Syracuse University Physics Department awards is the Henry Levinstein Fellowship Fund – a graduate fellowship to foster graduate student research with members of the Physics faculty. Henry, as he was preferred to be called by his former PhD students, was my thesis advisor and friend. He prepared me well to be an independent research physicist, which served me well when I joined the basic research area of Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ. We had a well-funded contract on infrared detector research; a contract that provided me with an opportunity to initiate research in several areas of solid state, including crystal growth, preparation of unusual materials and electrical and optical measurements. He encouraged me to be professional physicist, by publishing, giving talks at APS meetings and interacting with well-known physicists who visited our Laboratory.

I could go on with Levinstein stories, but my favorite one is how my twin daughters viewed him. During one of my several trips to Syracuse after receiving my PhD degree, I introduced my young twin daughters to Henry and asked him to give my daughters a tour of his toy lab. Henry was at his best as a showman with fascinating demonstrations of his toys that illustrated physical principles. It was no surprise to me that he was able to entertain my daughters. He put on a great show. He enjoyed interacting with children. Of course, at their young age, the physical principles meant little to them, however I thought that they would long remember the toy show. As we drove away from the University, I asked them, “Did you enjoy that entertaining toy demonstration?” Their response was a giggle - a roaring giggle that only two young girls can generate. Obviously, they had discussed this point earlier in my absence. When I repeated my question, they burst out laughing – the toy demonstration was not what fascinated them – it was Henry’s ability to touch his nose with his tongue. To this day, they remember that interesting Professor at Syracuse University who could touch his tongue to his nose.

I owe a lot to Henry. He made physics fun, he introduced me to the community of physics, he trained me to be an independent physicist, he launched me on a career in physics and best of all, he was a friend.