Dr. Benjamin Bederson Obituary
November 15, 1921 — January 6, 2023

Benjamin Bederson

Dr. Benjamin (Ben) Bederson of New York City passed away on January 6, 2023 at the age of 101 with a passion for life. Ben was born on November 15, 1921 to Lena and Abraham Bederson in New York, who were Jewish immigrants from Kyiv (Ukraine) and Minsk (Belarus). He sold the Communist "Daily Worker" newspaper on Coney Island as a young teenager. After spending a year in the Soviet Union in 1934, he became entirely committed to U.S. democracy. After Ben graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1939, he went on to study Physics at the City College of New York, but joined the army before graduating where he received further training in electrical engineering. Despite skipping basic military training, and never handling a gun during his four years in the army, he was recruited to serve at Los Alamos (NM) and later in Tinian (Pacific Mariana Islands), for the Manhattan project. As one of the youngest members of the scientific team, called the "Special Engineering Detachment", and as described in a 2015 New York Times article, he contributed significantly to the development of "Fat Man", the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 8/9/1945, that led to the end of World War II. After the war, he graduated with a Masters in Physics from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. from NYU in 1950.

In 1949, Ben met Betty at Tanglewood (MA) and they married 6 years later, going on to have four children, Joshua, Geoffrey, Aron, and Benjamin. In 1968, Ben and Betty bought an old rural farm house in Windsor (MA) which became their family's "retreat" throughout their lives. Ben went on to have a distinguished career in physics at NYU, eventually becoming chair of the department and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from about 1981 to 1986. He was Editor-in-Chief of Physical Review, the premiere international physics journal for ten years after that. Throughout his years at NYU and the American Physical Society, he was an impassioned advocate for scientist "refuseniks" in the Soviet Union and helped many publish their work and emigrate to the U.S. Ben loved music and listening to WGBH host Robert J. Lurtsema's classical music radio show Morning Pro Musica. He particularly enjoyed Tom Lehrer, Bach, and Mahler. He also loved old Hollywood movies and knew all of the great one-liners from them.

Known for his integrity, goodwill, and joy in life, Ben is survived by his wife, Betty, their four children and their families including four grandchildren.