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George Zimmerman, who passed away in May, led a life of distinguished service in physics and education. His wife of 54 years, Isa, also an accomplished educator, says that he was a remarkable man with a remarkable story.
Born in 1935 in Katowice, Poland, George's family hired a guide to help them escape Hitler's regime, but the guide took their money and turned them over to the Nazis at the border. From there, the family was split up and George and his father were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. George survived by a quirk of fate—he had contracted scarlet fever and was quarantined at the camp clinic. He was still there when the camp was liberated.
After the war, he found his mother and was adopted by a distant relative. They were moved to New Haven, Connecticut. George went to Yale University and received his Ph.D. in 1963 in condensed matter physics, after which he joined Boston University as a professor of physics and later Department Chairman. Until he became emeritus professor at BU in 2001, his research focused on superconductivity, magnetoresistance, and various aspects of low temperature physics. In the 1990s, he founded and led the ZerRes Corporation, which fabricated specialized materials for high-temperature superconductor applications.
"George's lab was like the United Nations," says Isa. "At one point, he had about half a dozen students and they were from all over the world." In addition, he ran a summer program for high-school students who had taken physics in their junior year. The program still exists, thanks to NSF funding and Boston University’s adoption of it, she says.
Isa Zimmerman has been an educator, with experience spanning 50 years and is president of IKZAdvisors, a STEM education consultancy. She has been a superintendent, a high school principal and an assistant principal, junior high school teacher, division director of the Technology in Education Program, and an associate professor at Lesley University. She was senior fellow for STEM at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and the UMass President’s Office. She was a member of both the Massachusetts and Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Councils.
As part of their estate planning before George passed away, he and Isa chose APS as one of the organizations they wanted to support and joined the APS Legacy Circle. "He was very active and cared a lot about the organization," says Isa. "My advice is, if you are a physicist and want to leave a legacy for the future, APS is a good organization to work with."
For more about George Zimmerman, see "The Triumph of Wounded Souls: Seven Holocaust Survivors' Lives," by Bernice Lerner (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).
Planned giving is one of many ways you can donate to APS. Please also consider joining the APS Legacy Circle as a way to support the work of APS. For more information, contact Irene I. Lukoff, Director of Development, at 202-209-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik