Michel Baranger died on
October 1, 2014 at the age of 87, after a short illness, surrounded by his
children and grandchildren.
The second of eight children, Michel was a native of Le
Mans, France. He graduated from the École Normale Supérieur in
Paris in 1949, and then received the Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University
in 1951. There he met and married fellow graduate student, Elizabeth Urey
Baranger. They moved to the California Institute of Technology for
post-graduate research in physics. In California, friends introduced Michel to
hiking and backpacking, and he developed a great love for the outdoors. Michel
next took up a position in the Physics Department at the Carnegie Institute of
Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh (1955-1969). Michel
moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as Professor of Physics
(1969-1997), where he was known as a devoted teacher and meticulous researcher.
Michel maintained an ongoing research affiliation in France with the Institut de Physique Nucléaire at Orsay, near Paris. After his retirement,
he was affiliated with the New England Complex Systems Institute and he also
had an adjunct appointment at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Michel's research career in physics began with his thesis
work in quantum electro-dynamics, an important calculation of contributions to
the Lamb Shift, with mentors Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. His research in
the late fifties and sixties in plasma spectroscopy and
nuclear collective motion had particular impact. More recently, he worked in
the areas of semi-classical quantum chaos and speciation as a complex system.
Michel loved to travel and experience nature. He hiked and
backpacked most summers in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, and also
hiked in the Alps, Alaska, the Himalayas, and the Andes. He traveled to Europe,
Africa (where he visited his sister in the Congo), the Galapagos, Antarctica,
Greenland, and New Zealand.
During his retirement, Michel moved to Tucson, Arizona, a
place where he could continue to enjoy his great love of hiking and the
outdoors. He was also one of the original residents of Academy Village, a
retirement community for active adults focused on lifelong learning.
Michel leaves behind many close friends, especially in
Boston where he lived for many years, devoted newer friends in Arizona, and
many research colleagues and former students. He maintained friendly relations
with former wives, Elizabeth Urey Baranger (mother of his children), Anne
Gerard, and Mary Lee Baranger. Though Michel made his home in the United
States, he remained close to his family in France and visited regularly. He
leaves behind sisters and brothers, Françoise, known as Soeur Marie Thomas, Patrice (Monique), Monique Pasquier (Pierre, predeceased),
Laurence Graffin (Denis), Martine, and Marie-Bénédicte, along with sister-in-law Christine Baranger and
numerous nieces and nephews. His dear brother, Pierre, predeceased him.
Michel is survived by his three children, Martin Baranger of
Boston, MA, Harold Baranger (Meg Anderson) of Durham, NC, and Anne Baranger (John
Hartwig) of Berkeley, CA, and four grandchildren (David Anderson Baranger,
Hannah Anderson-Baranger, Amelia Baranger-Hartwig and Pauline
Contributions in Michel's memory can be made to the Sierra Club Foundation, an organization he supported for sixty years. A memorial service for family and friends will be held in Tucson at a future date; please contact the family for specific information.