Bookmark and Share

Ben Post (1911-1994)

Benjamin Post, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Chemistry and Research Professor of Physics at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York, and one of the leading figures in the post-war development of X-ray Crystallography in America, died of cancer Wednesday, May 4, 1994 at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. He would have celebrated his 83rd birthday on July 23, 1994. Post received his PhD in physical chemistry from Polytechnic University in 1949, studying with C. Hiskey and I. Fankuchen and others (P. Ewald, D. Harker, R. Brill, and H. Mark) who made Poly one of the world's leading research institutions in X-ray crystallography.

Ben's outstanding qualities in both teaching and research were recognized by his being appointed Assistant Professor of Physics in 1954, Associate Professor in 1957, and Professor in 1960. In 1972 he was named Poly's first Professor of Physics and Chemistry.

The author of more than 100 scholarly papers, Professor Post's interests focused on X-ray diffraction and crystal structure analysis. He was ACA President in 1966, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee for Crystallography, Editor of the X-ray Powder Diffraction File, and Associate Editor of X-ray Spectrometry. In 1978 he published a solution to one of crystallography's central problems, the "phase problem", when he developed the three-beam experimental technique for determining certain features ("phases") of the interactions between X-ray beams and atomic structure from an analysis of the intensity of the reflected X-ray beam. For this work he received the ACA's Bertram E. Warren Award in 1982, an award given for "distinguished contributions to the physics of solids or liquids using X-ray, neutron, or electron diffraction techniques".

Notwithstanding these professional accomplishments, he was probably best known among colleagues, students, and friends for his irrepressible sense of humor. He recounted that many of his former students seem to have stronger recollections of the jokes and puns with which his classroom lectures had been spiced than of any crystallographic material he may have covered. Ben often remarked that of all of his accomplishments he was proudest of the legacy he left behind as a teacher. His former students constitute a far-flung network of teachers and researchers on all five continents and in many of the world's leading research institutions and industrial research laboratories. Ben will be deeply missed by all of them as well as by his many  friends and colleagues. His enthusiasm, joie-de-vivre, and puns will forever remain in the memory of those who knew him.

He is survived by his wife Janet, his sister Rena Inger, his three children, Laura, Diana, and David, and fourteen grandchildren.

Lawrentz Katz and Hugo Steinfink