Medicus:Heinrich Adolf Medicus (*1918)


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Heinrich Adolf Medicus *1918

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Heinrich Adolf Medicus

* 1918 Zürich,, Prof.d.Physik, at RPI, Troy, New York † February 26, 2017



Immigrated 1955 to the U.S., 33 Jahre Professor für Kernphysik am RPI Troy New York

Father: Georg Friedrich Adolph Medicus *1876 Prof. Phil. an der ETH Zürich

Mother: Anna Rührig

Wife:Dr. Hildegard Julie Schmelz D.M.D. (*1928 †2008)


ASO patron Heinrich Medicus to be honored

"By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union First published in print: Sunday, June 6, 2010

About eight years ago, Heinrich Medicus approached David Allan Miller, music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, with a suggestion. It was a springtime evening on Second Street in downtown Troy, and the maestro had just given a talk at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Miller was walking with a small crowd of symphony patrons over to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, where a concert would soon begin.

"He ran up to me and said that we needed to have a better caliber of soloists performing with the orchestra," recalls Miller. "I said 'Well, Heinrich we'd love that but those big stars can cost $40,000 a night or more.'?"

A retired RPI physics professor, Medicus and his wife Hildegard (who died in 2008) had been ASO subscribers for decades and were known to Miller as modest but regular donors. Medicus ended that brief exchange by offering his vague intention to help out.

According to Miller, a stunning check arrived at the ASO offices within about a month from Switzerland, Medicus' homeland, where he still visits regularly. His gift -- the amount of which he prefers not to reveal -- remains the largest single donation from an individual in the symphony's history and made possible several seasons of star appearances, including those of violinists Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Soon Medicus was invited to join the symphony board and became a part of Miller's "kitchen cabinet" of local musical advisers. During the January 2008 concert that marked Joshua Bell's debut with the Albany Symphony, Miller thanked Medicus for his generosity from the stage of the Palace Theatre.

Among those who show up for classical music concerts regularly, not just when the big soloists roll into town, Medicus has long been known as dedicated listener and quiet but generous patron. In acknowledgement of his support for the entire local music scene, the Troy Chromatics have made him honorary committee chairman for their annual benefit, to be held Saturday, June 19, at the Emma Willard School. (See box for details.)

During a recent conversation at his apartment in a Troy retirement center, Medicus, 91, looked back on some highlights of a life in academia and the arts. "My English is still not very good," admits Medicus. But his enthusiasms and accomplishments are clear.

Medicus earned his doctorate in physics at the same Zurich university where his father taught philosophy. He arrived in the U.S. in 1950 for a post-doc fellowship at Stanford and came to the East Coast a year later for further research at M.I.T. In 1955, he joined the faculty of R.P.I., where he served for 31 years and co-authored a well-received textbook.

A connoisseur of wine and spirits, as well as music and sculpture, Medicus says that a 1987 Wall Street Journal headline dubbed him, "The guy you don't want to invite for New Year's Eve." The story was just one of dozens across the country prompted by his attempt to break the world record for the longest flight of a champagne cork.

A couple of R.P.I. colleagues, looking for some publicity for the institute, approached him with the idea because it would combine his knowledge of wine and his study of energetic pressure -- as well as a taste for adventure.

A first attempt failed at a mere 95 feet, some 10 feet short of the Guinness Book record. But on June 5, 1988, Medicus left that record in the dust, achieving a distance of 177 feet, 9 inches.

It's a record that still holds and Medicus proudly displays a framed photo of the event. His champagne bottle is mounted at a 45-degree angle and he can be seen wearing protective garments, including heavy gloves and full headgear, borrowed from the laboratories at R.P.I. "I was afraid the bottle would explode," he says. It was vigorously shaken, by the way, but not artificially heated. That's the rules.

Medicus' wherewithal to support the arts and other causes comes down from his family in Switzerland, in particular an uncle who was an industrialist. Through the Swiss Benevolent Society of New York, he's endowed an exchange program for students of his homeland to study in the U.S.

Switzerland was also the connection that led Medicus to his first major underwriting for local music, which happened only in 1999. It was during the first season of Mass MoCA in North Adams, in support of a project by the Swiss-born "sound artist" Walter Fahndrich. With the installation "Music for a Quarry," loudspeakers are discreetly placed in a natural setting and give off subtle tones at sunset each night.

It was an unlikely pairing given Medicus' taste. The old-fashioned romanticism of Joshua Bell is more to his liking. In fact, Medicus could actually be called a groupie of the American violinist, having heard him more than a dozen times in the U.S. and Europe.

Asked if Bell is aware of his ardor, Medicus replies, "Oh yes, he knows Heinrich.""

The original source ( "Heinrich Medicus honored") gives more information about Heinrich Medicus.



"Dr. Heinrich Adolf Medicus TROY - Dr. Heinrich Adolf Medicus, passed away February 26, 2017. He was born on Christmas Eve 1918 in Zürich Switzerland, as the second of three children to Fritz Medicus, a professor of philosophy, and Clara Frey, an artist painter. After attending the primary and secondary schools in Zurich, Heinrich Medicus studied physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. Having the equivalent of a Master’s degree in 1943 he became a research associate at his alma mater. In his research he obtained his first world record by discovering the then smallest known nuclear energy level transition, measuring only 2 keV and thus earned his Ph.D. ( This transition in isomeric Technetium-99 is responsible that this isotope is very useful for nuclear medicine, because it has a reasonably long life and emits plenty of gamma radiation. In 1950 he received a fellowship to study for two years in the United States. On the invitation of Nobel Prize winner Edwin McMillan, he went to the University of California Berkley and did research in photo-meson physics. He also took the opportunity to make use of its inventory of separated isotopes to clarify certain issues which he was not able to solve in Zürich. Unfortunately, 1951 turned out to be a dark year for the University of California. This was because the regents of the university required a loyalty oath from the faculty, and some faculty refused. Many of the best faculty members of the Physics Department left for other top American universities. Therefore he decided to spend his second year at MIT. After his fellowship was nearing its end, MIT offered him an instructorship. There he helped to modernize the introductory education in Physics. In 1955, he was offered a tenure track associate professorship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he worked until his retirement. Subsequently, he built up the nuclear physics research of the Physics Department and became a full professor. He could induce the General Electric Research Lab to donate to RPI a 30 MeV Betatron on which he and his colleagues did their research. Later on, when RPI got a 100 MeV Linac he used that accelerator for his research. When the National Science Foundation started to give funding for Undergraduate Research Participation, he very soon administrated one of the biggest physics programs in the country. Several of his undergraduate participants presented papers at the regular APS meetings. In 1963 and 1970, he spent a year in the UK at Harwell, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment doing photo-nuclear research. In 1975 he spent his sabbatical at SIN, the Swiss Institute for Nuclear Research doing meson physics. He co-authored a physics textbook that received very good reviews, but did not sell well. However, the work on this textbook did bring him closer to the history of physics. Before and after his retirement he published several papers on Einstein and 20th century physics. He was also very interested in the intellectual development of students and took a number of initiatives to this effect: He started an exchange program between RPI and his alma mater in Switzerland. To partially fund this exchange, he and his wife arranged a very popular cheese and chocolate sale at RPI. This exchange program grew over the years from one student to three or four students in both directions. Also, for several summers he made it possible through the IAESTE program for Swiss students to spend two months in American firms and for RPI students to work in Switzerland. He also funded the Medicus Exchange Program administered by The Swiss Benevolent Society of NY, to enable Swiss students to come to study in the US and American students of Swiss descent to study in Switzerland. Medicus left his first name out to somewhat disguise that he was the sponsor. Due to his strong involvement in student affairs, he became a member of the RPI Delts, the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. A few years ago, they named the “Doc Medicus Scholarship” after him. He served in the Swiss Army from 1938 to 1950 with a total of 1000 days of service in uniform. In 1949 he became a second lieutenant and was in charge of the first artillery meteorological platoon of the Swiss Army. He was a member of the Zurich Guild of Carpenters and travelled to Switzerland to join them in the annual Sechseläuten Parade and to see family and friends in his beloved Switzerland. In his youth, he loved mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps and was a life-long member of the Swiss Alpine Club. He went skiing until he was in his seventies. For 35 years he was president of the Hudson Mohawk Swiss Society. Once he was asked to pop a champagne cork to break the record of the long distance flight of a champagne cork that was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Although he did not break the record he was quoted in many newspapers around the world including The International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. A year later, in 1988, he broke the record which is still standing at 177 feet and 9 inches. Because he felt that an engineering school like RPI was educating the future captains of industry they should know something about the finer things in life. Therefore he instituted a one-credit course on “The Science, Technology and Gastronomy of Alcoholic Beverages”, which was very popular amongst students. Based on a petition of the students he taught this famous course for several years after his retirement. Up until his last days, he remained an outstanding connoisseur of wine and had an excellent taste for fine food. His sense of humor was legendary and highly valued by everybody who knew him. Every year on April Fools’ Day he contributed an amazing fake story to an RPI periodical and later a Beechwood periodical. In 1960, while visiting his mother in Zürich, he met Hildegard Julie Schmelz, one of the first female Orthodontists. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Zürich and the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston, MA. They were married in 1961. They lived in Brunswick, NY. She passed away in 2008 after a long battle with cancer. This experience led him to become an even more committed philanthropist than before. He had a warm heart for the American Indians, tribal schools and charities. In 2012, he donated his important collection of Egyptian artifacts to The Albany Institute of History and Art. He also enjoyed visual arts and in 2014 gave his painting, Odilon Redon’s Woman with a Vase of Flowers, to the Clark Museum in Williamstown. Although he was not a good violinist and violist, he was a great music lover. He became an enthusiastic sponsor, board member and program committee member of The Albany Symphony Orchestra. He was thrilled to be able to attract star musicians like Joshua Bell to play with the ASO and for the ASO to receive a Grammy in 2014, in part due to his support. Along with his late wife, he also enjoyed and supported chamber music in the Capital District, including the Troy Friends of Chamber Music and the Troy Chromatics. There will be future concerts in their names. After his move in 2009 to the Beechwood Retirement Community in Troy, NY, he became a major supporter of the Samaritan Hospital, facilitating the acquisition of the da Vinci robotic system for minimally invasive surgeries and backing the reconstruction of the emergency facilities. In 2014, he donated ten million dollars for the new pavilion of the Samaritan Hospital in Troy that will have his name. He also provided seed money to the Neural Stem Cell Institute for stem cell research. And, most recently, St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy benefitted from his generosity towards the Hildegard Medicus Cancer Center. He is pre-deceased by his wife of 47 years. They had no children of their own, but stayed always very close to his wife’s nieces and their growing families in Germany, Switzerland and the US. Relatives and friends may call at the Bryce Funeral Home, Inc. 276 Pawling Avenue Troy on Thursday, March 2, 2017 from 4-7 PM. Funeral service will be held Friday at 10 AM at the First United Presbyterian Church 1915 Fifth Avenue Troy with Rev. Alexandra Lusak and Rev. Gusti Linnea Newquist, officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Albany Symphony Orchestra, 19 Clinton Avenue, Albany, NY 12207 or St. Peter’s Health Partners, 315 S. Manning Blvd, Albany 12208. To sign the guest book, light a candle or for service directions, visit Published in The Record on Mar. 1, 2017"

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