Robert Finkelstein

...Our most senior and beloved colleague, Prof. Robert "Bob" Finkelstein passed away on August 27. He was 104. Having arrived at UCLA in 1948, Bob was a familiar face in the department. We always enjoyed speaking to him about his life and work and appreciated his kind demeanor.

During WW2, he served as a scientific liaison to Albert Einstein and during his career worked with George Gamow, Robert Oppenheimer, and Julian Schwinger.

Bob did original work on a broad range of topics in particle physics. Even in recent years he published his work on the promises of knot theory for particle physics. He had a record of nearly eighty years of scientific publications, starting in 1940; and he continued to write papers into this year.

We are grateful to Bob not only for his career and friendship, but also for creating numerous graduate fellowships. Many of our theory graduate students have been sponsored by the Finkelstein Fellowship, which was created and augmented over the years by Bob and his wife Norma.

In 2016 UCLA Physics & Astronomy hosted a celebration of Prof. Finkelstein's career in physics with invited talks and presentations. You may visit the symposium website here.

If you wish to donate in memory of Prof. Finkelstein, please click the button below for the Chair's Discretionary Fund and there will be a place to add his name. Donations to this fund in Bob's memory will be transferred to the Finkelstein Fellowship fund.


Cards for the family may be sent to:

  • Department Chair
    UCLA Dept. of Physics & Astronomy MS154705
    475 Portola Plaza
    Los Angeles, CA 90095-1547

Personal Comments

Jan Smit added at 2020-09-08 04:55:22
Bob taught me how to do detailed calculations. I have lost a father in science and a friend.
Pyung Seong Kwon added at 2020-09-04 23:58:01
"I always feel gratefulness to prof. Finkelstein. I never forget about the favors and kindness he had shown to an ordinary foreign student. Prof. Finkelstein was the greatest teacher and scientist I have ever met in my life."
Daniel Sternheimer added at 2020-09-03 16:30:35
"Meeting with Bob (and Norma) has always been a highlight of my numerous visits to UCLA, both scientifically and personally. On the scientific side the variety of Bob's talents was impressive, including his original steps into mathematical physics. Our meetings started in the early 70s with Moshe Flato, and afterward with Noriko Sakurai. Norma rightfully diagnosed that Moshe and I were ""a team,"" and it is at their home that my relationship with Noriko took shape. Bob was a dear friend, a physicist and a gentleman. "
Helmut Satz added at 2020-09-03 16:28:30
"Bob was the supervisor for my first post-doc position in 1967/68, and we last met some five years ago. Farewell to a wonderful person and a great physicist. Our thoughts are with you, Norma. Helmut & Karin"
Manuel Villasante added at 2020-09-03 16:27:24
I don't think I can find the proper words, at least not in English. If there ever was a scientist I would have liked to emulate, that would have been Bob Finkelstein. Rest in peace Bob, now that you have finally stopped working. You will not be forgotten, not in my thoughts nor in my prayers.
Eric D'Hoker added at 2020-09-02 17:44:47
Bob was a wonderful human being and a great scientist. His excellent taste in physics helped build the strong group in theoretical physics that we have at UCLA today. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Norma, Ruth, and Bob's family. He was a kind colleague and a loyal friend who will be missed very much.
Charlie Kennel added at 2020-09-02 17:40:36
I have known a few geniuses in my time, but of them all, Bob was the kindest and gentlest. These are qualities to be treasured in these fraying times.