With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of Pierre Hohenberg, Professor Emeritus in Physics and former Senior Vice Provost for Research at NYU.
Pierre was a distinguished theoretical physicist known internationally for his contributions to the study of phase transitions (such as melting and freezing), for his work on pattern formation (how snowflakes acquire their intricate shapes), and on hydrodynamic instabilities (such as thermal plumes). He did foundational work on density functional theory, which is universally used by chemists and material scientists. He also proved that certain kinds of phase transitions that are common in three dimensions are impossible in two. Pierre was recognized for his many contributions to science by a number of prestigious prizes, including the Fritz London Prize in 1990, the Max Planck Medal in 1999, and the Lars Onsager Prize in 2003. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (from 1985), the National Academy of Sciences (from 1989), the American Philosophical Society (from 2014) and the New York Institute for the Humanities (from 2016).
Pierre served in the NYU administration for six years through 2010, initially as NYU’s first Senior Vice Provost for Research, and in his final year of service as Senior Vice Provost for Academic Policies. He served as a key advisor to the Provost and was a valued colleague to deans, faculty, and administrators who sought his expertise, advice, discourse, and wit.
Pierre was an indefatigable and energetic advocate for research and scholarship, and his contributions to the university were enormously valuable. He provided University-wide leadership in advancing research, shaping the strategic planning for the University’s research enterprise as well as its information technology services, and critically assessing academic policies in a range of areas, including fair use of copyrighted material, intellectual property, research appointments, and conflict of interest. Pierre also was the founding co-chair of the Space Planning Working Group (SPWG); under his leadership and with his characteristic attention to principle and detail, SPWG became the means for ensuring that space and capital planning are first and foremost, guided by the University’s academic priorities.
A memorial service and professional tribute is planned by the Physics Department for the spring.