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Harald Enge, 87, physicist, pillar at MIT

HARALD A. ENGE HARALD A. ENGE
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Matt Collette
Globe Correspondent / May 1, 2008

Harald A. Enge, a retired MIT physics professor, died April 14 of respiratory failure. He was 87 and lived in Sherborn.

Mr. Enge was born in Fauske, Norway, and studied electrical engineering at Trondheim University in Trondheim, Norway. During World War II, he spent a year helping the Norwegian underground resistance during the Nazi occupation.

Dr. Enge earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Bergen in 1954, based mostly on research he had conducted at MIT in 1950 and 1951. He became an assistant professor at MIT in 1955 and a full professor in 1959.

Standing 6 feet 4 inches, he towered over most of his students, relatives said. He loved to teach large classes and worked to keep students engaged throughout.

He also did his best to bring concrete examples to his science classes and once delivered a class lecture on inertia from atop a trolley parked on the MIT campus, said his wife, Alice (Williams).

Dr. Enge was the longtime director of MIT's Van de Graff research group and was acknowledged by peers, colleagues said, as a world leader in the design of magnetic spectrometers, instruments used to determine the energy spectrum of nuclear particles.

He held more than 20 patents and wrote the widely used textbooks "Introduction to Nuclear Physics" and "Introduction to Atomic Physics." He won the Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics from the American Physical Society in 1984.

Dr. Enge retired from MIT in 1986 to spend more time with his first wife, Grete, who died in 1988. A few years later, he remarried. The couple traveled extensively, visiting 24 countries in six years, said his wife, Alice.

For a wedding gift, Dr. Enge gave his wife a camera, and Mrs. Enge captured their trips, filling 36 albums. "When he was getting older, we became armchair travelers," she said.

In addition to his wife of 19 years, Dr. Enge leaves three sons, Kjell of Carlisle, Pa., Per of Mountain View, Calif., and Eric of Southborough; a stepson, John Emery of Washington, D.C.; a stepdaughter, Jeanne Bassett of Sandia Park, N.M.; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Services are private.

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