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1931 Edith Conrad Halbert 2023

Edith Conrad Halbert

April 23, 1931 — December 31, 2023

Oak Ridge

Edith Conrad Halbert, aged 92, passed away peacefully on Dec. 31, 2023 at NHC Oak Ridge with her husband Melvyn at her side.  


Edith was born April 23, 1931 in New York City and grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens.  She had extraordinary mathematical skills, but excelled in all subjects and won numerous academic awards. Her English teacher at Richmond Hill High School asked her to assist in editing his series of textbooks.


Edith entered Cornell University at age 16 and majored in physics. Melvyn was also a physics major at Cornell. They attended many classes together, graduated in the class of 1951, and were married March 25 of that year.


They continued their studies at the University of Rochester. Melvyn received a PhD in experimental physics in 1954. He remained at Rochester as a research associate until May 1955, when he started his career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Edith joined him in July and finished her thesis in the library of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (now Oak Ridge Associated Universities). She received her PhD in theoretical physics in 1956.


Edith began work at ORNL in October 1956, in the Electronuclear Research Division (later merged with the Physics Division). Her first specialty was calculation of nuclear properties according to the nuclear shell model.  She led a group at ORNL developing one of the first computer programs to perform such calculations.  It was used by nuclear theorists around the world. She later turned her attention to nuclear reaction theory and the optical model of the nucleus. Edith was among the organizers of several international conferences on nuclear physics held in Gatlinburg and Fall Creek Falls.


Edith and Melvyn raised three sons, Dan, Joel, and Alan.  All three attended Linden Elementary, Robertsville Junior High, and Oak Ridge High School. The family was ably assisted for some 20 years by their treasured housekeeper, the late Mary E. Thomas.


Edith continued her research with leading nuclear theorists from the USA, Japan, Italy, and Denmark in scientific exchanges during 1971-72 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and in 1974-75 at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. For these year-long assignments, Edith and Melvyn took with them the family and Mrs. Thomas, first to Long Island and then to Copenhagen.   


Later Edith participated in early research on software for robotics at ORNL and worked in contract management for the Energy Division.  She also taught undergraduate physics for two years at Knoxville College.  


Edith managed her life's roles well as wife, mother, cook, gardener, scientist, world traveler, and volunteer. She organized the library of the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge, participated in JCOR Sisterhood functions, and was a life member of the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge.  


Edith is survived by her husband Melvyn and their sons Daniel (Carole Slipowitz) of Newton, Massachusetts, Joel (Cris Johnson) of Tucson, Arizona, and Alan (Keiko) of Nashville, Tennessee. She leaves eight grandchildren: Daniel’s sons Adam Halwitz (Robin Harney) and Jesse Halwitz, Joel’s children Aaron Halbert, Joshua Halbert (Rachel) and Erica Johnson, and Alan’s children Raymond (Devorah Leah), Maya, and Samuel. Edith also leaves three great-grandchildren, nephews Peter Wittlin, Roger Wittlin (Jan de Mayo), niece Risa Kolyer McGrew (Dan), and nephews Stephan Kolyer and Alexander Kolyer (Liz Baier).


Edith was preceded in death by her parents Morton Conrad and Mae Schoenfield Conrad, elder sister Eleanor Wittlin, and brother-in-law Marc Wittlin.

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