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Dieter Sigmar, retired professor, dies at 70

Dieter J. Sigmar
Dieter J. Sigmar

Dieter J. Sigmar, an MIT professor and fusion scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, died on July 31 at his home in Lago Vista, Texas, after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. He was 70.

Sigmar was known for his contributions to the field of plasma fusion and played a key role in the domestic and international magnetic fusion energy and plasma science programs. When he retired from MIT in 2001, the U.S. Department of Energy honored him with its Distinguished Associate Award.

The DOE citation read: "For your contributions to our understanding of plasma confinement, the physics of burning plasmas, and the role of the plasma edge, and your untiring efforts which have enhanced the standing of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center as a major intellectual center for plasma physics research. Your commitment to international fusion collaboration and stimulation of theory programs around the world has been critical to our progress in fusion science research."

Born in Vienna, Austria, Sigmar came to MIT as a postdoctoral fellow in the physics department after receiving his Ph.D. from the Technical University of Vienna in 1965. He stayed on as an associate professor in the nuclear engineering department until 1976.

Sigmar then spent several years at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory before returning to MIT in 1985. He served as head of theory, acting director and deputy director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

While at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Sigmar established a divertor physics program and became head of the U.S. Divertor Task Force. He also served on many Department of Energy committees.

He was made a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1979 and was also a member of the American Nuclear Society and the Austrian Physical Society.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dr. Liselotte Sigmar of Lago Vista, Texas; a son, Axel Sigmar of Lago Vista; two daughters, Monika Burdett of Dallas, Texas, and Elisabeth Schmidt of Alexandria, Va.; and five grandchildren.

Donations in Sigmar's memory may be made to the Lone Star Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 8111 N. Stadium Drive, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77054.

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