Barney Rubin

Barney Rubin

Barney Rubin, Ph.D, died Feb. 24 in Walnut Creek, California surrounded by his family. He was 94.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri on Jan. 1, 1924, he was a brilliant chemical engineer and scholar in the study of conscious awareness. In the arc of his career he was instrumental in the development of the hydrogen bomb, the disarmament of nuclear weapons and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. He was a loyal scientist, family member, father and friend and he will be truly missed by many.

Rubin grew up with four siblings during the Great Depression. His parents ran a dry goods store and his father also bought and sold real estate. He wanted to enlist in the military as a pilot after high school but started college in 1942 instead. He earned his engineering bachelor’s degree from UCLA and his chemical engineering masters and doctorate degrees from U.C. Berkeley.

In 1953 Rubin was one of the first employees of the newly-created Lawrence Livermore Radiation Laboratory, now known as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He spent the next 31 years in a variety of positions and research projects at LLNL. Initially he was in charge of the original engineering group for manufacturing the critical parts of LLNL's first test devices. Over the years his responsibilities rotated through directing the chemical engineering, plastics, metallurgy, plutonium, ceramics and tritium groups.

When the tritium group was in his division he was responsible for setting up and setting off test bombs at Christmas Island, in the Nevada desert, and at the atolls of Bikini and Eniwetok. He found participating in these field experiments to be the most enjoyable part of his career. Rubin appeared in "Life Magazine" in 1957 when there was a misfire at a Nevada Proving Ground test site. It was his task to climb a 500-foot tower with two of his co-workers to disarm the bomb.

Rubin and his groups invented compounds to build and make the bombs possible. They used every element in -- and added to -- the periodic table of elements. He obtained several patents, some of which were declared secret by the government.

At LLNL, Rubin was instrumental in attempting to develop atomic energy for peaceful uses. He joined their Plowshare Project to promote non-combat uses of nuclear explosives. For 10 years he worked with the Energy Research Group to invent energy-producing ideas and as part of a separate Long-Range Planning Group he looked for new research and development initiatives outside the area of defense. In 1983 Rubin went to Washington D.C. for two years to work for the Arms Control and Disarmament Committees at the Pentagon. He offered his expert knowledge about the industrial process of making thermo-nuclear bombs to assist them with determining how to verify the reduction of nuclear arms with the Soviet Union. After returning he worked in the LLNL Verification and Control of Arms Group to support the non-proliferation of nuclear and chemical warfare. Before retiring he examined how to develop electronic communication between computers and after retiring he remained a consultant for the LLNL Energy Program.

Rubin was actively involved with many hobbies. Studying the conscious mind brought him to research world religions and philosophy and to participate in many kinds of groups examining and testing psychology such as at Esalen with Fritz Perls. He earned a master’s in psychology from John F. Kennedy University and was a graduate student in educational psychology at CSU, Hayward.

He jogged and went to health clinics. He enjoyed building things; he and a group of engineering-friends disassembled and reengineered a hi-fi music system for each of them and he completed building a roll-top desk that his daughter created in high school. At age 67 Rubin dove into researching family genealogy, published several books on his family history and gave them as gifts to his family. Throughout his lifetime, and especially after retiring, he loved traveling extensively both domestically and internationally.

Rubin was married to Marge Goldberg for 33 years and they had two children: Jeffrey and Terri. He was with his second wife, Evelyn "Peggy" Radford for 32 years and was enthusiastically involved in her very active social and political circles. Rubin never lost his zest for life or his desire to be active. He would have loved to have just kept on finding out what would come next.

Rubin is survived by his children, Jeffrey and his wife Cindy of Pleasant Hill and Terri and her husband Kevin of Morgan Hill; as well as four grandchildren: Alexa, Everett, Jesse and Sophia. Rubin was fortunate to have had an extended bonus family with stepchildren, including Jane and her husband Brent of Palo Alto, as well as grandchildren, great grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.

A very small, private gathering was held in his honor. It is requested that instead of flowers donations be made to the charity of your choice. To share thoughts and memories with Rubin's family, barneyrubin1124 [at] gmail.com (email).