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Harold Lewis

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Harold Lewis


Harold ("Hal") Warren Lewis (born October 1, 1923, in New York City;[1] died May 26, 2011[2]) was an Emeritus Professor of Physics and former department chairman at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). In 2010, after 67 years of membership, Lewis resigned from the American Physical Society, writing in a letter about the "corruption" from "the money flood" of government grants.[3]

Career as a physicist

He entered New York University in 1940 and graduated in physics. He earned a Masters degree from the University of California, Berkeley from 1943 to 1944 before joining the Navy, where he served in World War II as an electronics technician.[1] After the war, he returned to the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his Ph.D. in Physics studying under J. Robert Oppenheimer. His focus was high energy physics (cosmic rays and elementary particles). He, along with the other theoretical Physics professors at Berkeley, refused to sign the McCarthy era loyalty oath on principle, and in 1950 went to Princeton. Later, when offered reinstatement at Berkeley, he chose instead to accept a position at Bell Labs where he did research on superconducting materials. In 1956 he left Bell Labs to join the University of Wisconsin, Madison to work on solid state physics and plasmas. In 1964, he left to join the University of California, Santa Barbara as a full professor, and later chairman, in their growing Physics department. He retired from UCSB in 1991.[2]

He wrote a text on the trade-offs between technological advances and risks,[4] and also authored a popular book on decision making.[5] In 1991 Harold Lewis won the Science Writing Award for his book 'Technological Risk'.[4][6]

Lewis was chairman of the JASON Defense Advisory Group from 1966 to 1973, when he worked on the issue of missile defense.[1] He was a long-term member of the Defense Science Board (DSB),[1] and chaired a 1985 DSB Task Force (with Stephen Schneider) on nuclear winter.[7] Lewis was active in the field of safety of nuclear power plants.[8] In 1975, he chaired a year-long study of light-water reactor safety for the American Physical Society (APS).[9] Lewis chaired the 1977-1979 Risk Assessment Review for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. [10]

Resignation from APS

Lewis was a [3][11] In his open letter to the APS president, Lewis declared the "global warming scam" as "the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist."[3][12]

Lewis's letter of resignation "vaulted [him] to celebrity status [among] conservative and contrarian Web sites and commentators."[13] The APS responded by disputing Lewis' accusations,[14] and defending its policy.[15]

In late 2010, Lewis joined the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.[16]


His father was a textile salesman who immigrated from Russia; his mother was born in the United States. He had two older brothers. He met his future wife Mary at UC Berkeley. They had two children, and later moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1964.

Selected books

  • H. W. Lewis, Technological Risk, W.W.Norton, 1990 368 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-02883-6 . Review at New York Times
  • H. W. Lewis, Why Flip a Coin: The Art and Science of Good Decisions, Wiley, 1997, 224 pages ISBN 978-0-471-16597-2


  1. ^ a b c d Oral History Transcript--Harold Lewis at the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics
  2. ^ a b University of California, Santa Barbara (June 2011). "Campus Notes 93106" 21 (8). Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society, 08 October 2010, GWPF site (archived copy accessed 12/30/13)
  4. ^ a b H. W. Lewis, Technological Risk, W.W.Norton, 1992 ISBN 0-393-30829-4
  5. ^ H. W. Lewis, Why Flip a Coin: The Art and Science of Good Decisions, Wiley, 1997 ISBN 0-471-16597-2
  6. ^ AIP Science Writing Award winners
  7. ^ Lawrence Badash, 2009, A nuclear winter's tale: science and politics in the 1980s, p. 163. MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-01272-3
  8. ^ Lewis, HW (1983). "Nuclear power plant malfunctions: potential types of exposure and severity". Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 59 (10): 898–903.  
  9. ^ "Nuclear reactor safety—the APS submits its report".  
  10. ^ Lewis, H. W.; Budnitz, R. J.; Rowe, W. D.; Kouts, H. J. C.;  
  11. ^ Phillips, Melanie, "Decency fights back", Spectator, 13 October 2010.
  12. ^ Web:
  13. ^ Revkin, Andrew (October 15, 2010). "A Physicist’s Climate Complaints". New York Times. One week ago Lewis was vaulted to celebrity status by conservative and contrarian Web sites and commentators when he disseminated his letter of resignation ... 
  14. ^ "APS Comments on Harold Lewis’ Resignation of his Society Membership". APS. October 12, 2010. 
  15. ^ American Physical Society (November 18, 2007). "APS National Policy 07.1 CLIMATE CHANGE". 
  16. ^ Hal Lewis Joins The GWPF at GWPF site

External links

  • "A Physicist’s Climate Complaints", column about and interview of Lewis by Andrew Revkin at the New York Times, October 15, 2010
  • Climate change 'fraud' letter: a Martin Luther moment in science history, an editorial about Dr. Lewis's resignation from APS.
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