Raphael Littauer 11/28/1925 - 10/19/2009


Raphael Littauer, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Cornell University, died peacefully Monday, October 19, 2009. His wife of 55 years, Alexandra Littauer, preceded him in 2005. He leaves his children Ben Littauer and Celia Clement, his in-law children Kathy Kerby and Dan Clement, his grandchildren Ariana, Rachel, Ross, Andrew, and Jeffrey, and his dear companion of three years, Renée Rollin.

Born in Leipzig, Germany in 1927, Raphael received his doctorate from Cambridge University before Bob Wilson brought him to Cornell in 1950. His long career at Cornell demonstrated his strengths in research, teaching, the arts, and leadership, as well as a strong social conscience.

Professor Littauer, honored with several Cornell teaching awards, is remembered by thousands of Cornell physics students for his exciting lectures, with an emphasis on understanding, not formulas. He invented the student response system that he (and his children!) installed in lecture room Rockefeller B in 1971. This system, which is still in use and has been widely emulated, allowed him to poll the class to see how well they were understanding his lecture’s concepts, and let him adjust his presentation accordingly. After his second retirement, Raphael was involved with enhancing Physics 101, including developing interactive on-line tutorials, revamping the testing structure, and investigating the use of games as a teaching aid.

As a researcher, Raphael focused on accelerator physics. He was a key member of the teams that built the Cornell synchrotron and later the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR) and the colliding beam machine. In 1995 he was awarded the Robert R. Wilson Prize in Accelerator Physics for the introduction of pretzel orbits as a means for increasing the number of bunches in the accelerator, and hence the luminosity.

Raphael was an accomplished musician. He played piano, cello, and recorder, and was also a conductor. He enjoyed photography, which he used in his extensive world travels, as well as on birding trips with Alexandra. He spoke three languages fluently, and was conversant in two others.

Professor Littauer chaired the physics department in the mid-1970’s, and was always a leader in projects with which he was involved.

Outraged by the US involvement in the Vietnam War, Raphael, Alexandra, and their children were regular marchers in demonstrations. He was the lead author and editor of “The Air War in Indochina”, a quantitative study of the amount and effects of bombing in Southeast Asia. He was disappointed that he was not mentioned on Nixon’s Enemies List.

Raphael traveled extensively with his family, with Alexandra, and with Renée, including extended stays in Australia, Italy, and France. He led a very active life, with interests in skiing, sailing, water-skiing, diving, squash, and tennis.

All who knew him will miss Raphael, his warmth, his wit, his keen intelligence and his wonderful stories.

Funeral arrangements under the care of Bangs Funeral Home are private. No gifts or flowers, please. Donations in Raphael’s name may be made to the United Way of Tompkins County.

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