Myriam Sarachik, Physicist Who Plumbed Magnetism, Dies at 88

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She overcame bias against women successful subject and idiosyncratic calamity to execute groundbreaking work. She earned designation for her achievements past year.

Myriam Sarachik successful  1963 astatine  Bell Laboratories, wherever  she did her groundbreaking probe   connected  magnetism and electricity.
Credit...AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Kenneth Chang

Oct. 13, 2021, 2:58 p.m. ET

Myriam P. Sarachik, a idiosyncratic whose groundbreaking experiments illuminated subtle but cardinal physics successful the physics and magnetic behaviour of materials, died connected Oct. 7 successful Manhattan. She was 88.

The death, astatine Mount Sinai West hospital, was caused by a stroke, her daughter, Karen, said.

In the 1960s, Dr. Sarachik (pronounced SAHR-ah-chick) entered and succeeded successful a field, experimental physics, wherever women were a rarity. Even her mentors insisted that she mightiness truly person preferred being a housewife oregon a part-time teacher. But she persisted, becoming a prof successful 1964 astatine the City College of New York.

Six years later, her vocation was interrupted by tragedy. Dr. Sarachik came location to find her younger daughter, Leah, 5, the nanny and the household car missing. The nanny had abducted the girl, driven to Vermont and killed her earlier committing suicide. An intensive hunt that included Dr. Sarachik’s colleagues led to the find of Leah’s assemblage successful a trash tin down a summertime house.

Dr. Sarachik began her recovery, filling her days with needlework that she displayed connected the walls of her apartment. She helped her postgraduate students decorativeness their degrees. She taught immoderate classes. But she mostly withdrew from physics probe for much than a decade.

She returned to the laboratory successful the 1980s and past began performing her leading-edge enactment connected superconductivity and molecules that acted similar magnets.

Last year, the American Physical Society awarded her the Medal for Exceptional Achievement successful Research for “fundamental contributions to the physics of physics transport successful solids and molecular magnetism.”

Dr. Sarachik besides mentored younger women successful the tract and served connected committees defending quality rights for scientists astir the world.

“She ever pushed the boundaries,” said Laura H. Greene, the main idiosyncratic astatine the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory successful Tallahassee, Fla. “She was ever a pioneer.”

Dr. Sarachik’s archetypal experimental triumph came successful 1963. For decades, physicists had observed immoderate metallic materials whose electrical absorption — the magnitude of sluggishness successful the travel of energy done them — exhibited unusual behavior.

Typically, arsenic a metallic cools, the electrons determination much readily, and the absorption drops. But immoderate metallic alloys bucked that trend. Instead, successful these materials, electrical absorption beneath a definite somesthesia started rising again arsenic they were further chilled. It was a enigma why.

A Japanese physicist, Jun Kondo, had travel up with a imaginable mentation for the phenomenon, but it was Dr. Sarachik, moving successful a impermanent occupation astatine Bell Labs successful New Jersey, who provided the archetypal experimental verification of what is present known arsenic the Kondo effect, a cardinal facet of however immoderate metals behave. She showed that magnetism from tiny amounts of robust successful a metallic alloy could origin the electrical absorption to rise, matching Dr. Kondo’s predictions.

For years, Dr. Sarachik received small designation for her achievement, and determination was nary connection to enactment astatine Bell Labs erstwhile her presumption expired. She besides refused an connection from Philips Research Laboratories, conscionable northbound of New York City, due to the fact that the institution had offered her a wage thousands of dollars little than the wage offered to men.

“I objected, placed an inquiry, and was told that the connection was successful enactment with industrywide signifier regarding women,” she recalled successful an autobiographical sketch published successful 2018.

City College offered her a presumption arsenic an adjunct professor, and she taught determination until retiring successful 2018 and taking emeritus status.


Credit...Calla Kessler for The New York Times

Myriam Paula Morgenstein was calved connected Aug. 8, 1933, successful Antwerp, Belgium. Her father, Schloimo Morgenstein, was a diamond dealer, and her mother, Sarah (Segal) Morgenstein, was a homemaker. Orthodox Jews, they decided successful 1940 to fly the Nazi threat.

Their formation included mendacious papers, bribes, moving done unfastened fields, being seized portion trying to transverse into Spain, internment successful a situation campy successful German-occupied France and past an flight from it into Vichy France. (Decades later, she wrote, she learned that barbed ligament had been erected astatine the campy aft their flight and that by mid-1942 astir of those interned determination had been sent to extermination camps successful Poland.)

Myriam, her parents and her 2 brothers made their mode to Cuba and past to New York City. She was among the archetypal girls to be the Bronx High School of Science, which had lone conscionable gone coed, and past entered Barnard College, wherever she majored successful physics and graduated successful 1954.

She continued studying physics astatine Columbia University, finishing a master’s grade successful 1957 and a doctorate successful 1960. She past decided to springiness up physics and enactment astatine location and instrumentality attraction of Karen, her newborn daughter.

“I was location for astir a month, and I realized I was ne'er going to past this,” Dr. Sarachik recalled successful her code accepting the American Physical Society award. Her husband, Philip Sarachik, an electrical engineering prof astatine New York University whom she joined successful 1954, urged her to instrumentality to work.

But her occupation hunt went nowhere. In despair, she reached retired to 1 of her Columbia professors, Polykarp Kusch.

“I asked him to delight assistance me,” Dr. Sarachik said. “He argued with maine agelong and hard. He said: ‘You don’t truly privation to bash what you deliberation you privation to do. You don’t privation to bash research. Maybe you should instrumentality a part-time teaching job.’ And I said, ‘No, I privation to bash research.’”

When Dr. Sarachik insisted, Dr. Kusch arranged for her to person an interrogation astatine Bell Labs.

In the 1980s, Dr. Sarachik explored however immoderate two-dimensional materials, mostly insulators that bash not behaviour electricity, could crook into metallic conductors, thing theorists said was impossible.

She besides led experiments astir the quantum behaviour of molecules that enactment similar magnets. The enactment demonstrated that the northbound and southbound poles of these molecules, each consisting of a mates 100 atoms, could spontaneously flip astatine acold temperatures wherever specified flips were forbidden by classical physics.

Other physicists had tried to amusement this arsenic well. But astatine the time, the materials consisting of these molecules could beryllium made lone arsenic powders. The magnetic fields of these crystal specks pointed successful random directions, and the grounds was inconclusive.

“She was not satisfied with immoderate speculations,” said Eugene Chudnovsky, a physicist astatine Lehman College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. “I was really telling her, ‘Myriam, you person precise absorbing results, you should people them.’ And she was telling me: ‘No, let’s wait. I privation to recognize it better.’”

One of Dr. Sarachik’s students, Jonathan Friedman, provided a solution by mixing the pulverization successful a liquid glue and placing the substance successful a beardown magnetic field. The crystals lined up with the magnetic tract and, arsenic the glue dried, remained pointing successful that direction.

That data, unambiguous, acceptable disconnected “an detonation of probe successful this area,” Dr. Chudnovsky said.

In summation to her daughter, Dr. Sarachik, who lived connected the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is survived by her husband; a brother, Henry Morgenstein; and 3 grandchildren.

In her 2018 autobiographical sketch, Dr. Sarachik ended with observations astir cardinal technological questions that remain, similar the quality of quality consciousness.

“Science is conscionable opening to marque immoderate advancement toward knowing ‘awareness,’” she wrote. “But the existent enigma is self-awareness. Why me? My self-awareness volition soon beryllium extinguished. For the moment, I’ve been having 1 hellhole of a ride!”

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