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Obituary: Kurt Efraim Nielsen

Jul. 21, 2020
Category: Obituary

Kurt Efraim Nielsen, April 29, 1937 – May 12, 2020

Kurt was born the son of immigrants from Denmark and Sweden, Ejnar and Karin Nielsen, on April 29, 1937. Kurt, and his brother Ken, grew up on a farm in New York. Kurt would get up at 5 AM every day, a lifelong habit, to help with the crops and animals. Kurt’s father died at the age of 44, when Kurt was just 16, and the family farm was sold.

Kurt went to the New York State Teachers College, now State University of New York in Albany, and graduated with an MS in Physics. While in Albany, Kurt met and fell in love with Ruth. “From the moment we met, I knew you were the one I would love forever.” They were married on September 5, 1959. Kurt enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, for a Ph.D. in Physics. There he worked with Professor Raymond Herb on accelerators and trying to find quarks for his Graduate Thesis. While there, Kurt and Ruth had a son David and a daughter Cheryl.

Upon graduation, Kurt moved his family to California. This was the start of Kurt’s long and respected career in Pulsed Power. For the next 28 years Kurt worked at Physics International (PI) and Pulse Sciences Inc. (PSI). Kurt then worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. At LANL, Kurt joined the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) facility. DARHT uses two axes to produce the world’s most intense X-rays for radiographic research. Kurt led the team that redesigned Axis 2, addressing multiple problems. DARHT continues to be the envy of the international community.

There is an old saying, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Kurt found that job. “Kurt was one of the most well-known, and well-liked members of the global Pulsed Power community. Kurt was at home in the lab running experiments, in the control room checking the performance of the accelerator, or in his office analyzing data.” Kurt published and peer reviewed for the American Physical Society and IEEE. Kurt was still working at LANL for 22 years, and in Pulsed Power for 50 years, when he passed away.

Kurt and Ruth were married for 60 years in September 2019. Kurt was a great Dad, who loved doing things with his family. He loved travel, nature, and hiking. Over the years, Kurt took his family camping at many State and National Parks. Frequent destinations included Yosemite, Death Valley, the California Coast, and the Redwood Forests.

Kurt passed away on May 12, 2020, due to heart failure. Kurt is survived by his wife Ruth, his children David and Cheryl, and his brother Ken. We are comforted by knowing that he is now at home with God. Kurt was laid to rest June 6, 2020 in Los Alamos, NM. A Remembrance Service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers we would like donations to the following groups: Prostate Cancer Foundation, https://www.pcf.org/, American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, https://www.stjude.org/, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, https://www.michaeljfox.org/ .

More Alumni Notes

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Jeffrey Vande Leest ’75 retired June 30, 2021.

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