Christoph Hohenemser

office phone: 508-793-7175

Christoph (Chris) Hohenemser, Professor of Physics and Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P).

Most of Hohenemser's work in experimental physics utilized nuclear spectroscopy applied to phase transitions in solids. It began with his 1962 study of the superconducting transition in tin using the Mössbauer effect in 119Sn. Work on ES&P-related problems began in 1958 with Congressional testimony warning against U.S. export of nuclear reactor technology, and was followed by several papers and chapters on nuclear weapons proliferation. His testimony preceded the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by 8 years. Subsequently he published with the St. Louis group led by Barry Commoner, John Fowler and others critiques of civil defense proposed by the Kennedy administration; a sea-level Panama Canal .and an Alaskan harbor dug by nuclear explosives, proposed by the Atomic Energy Commission; and a review of underground nuclear testing subsequent to the 1963 atmospheric test ban treaty. Most of this work was published in the CNI newsletter, the predecessor of today's Environment Magazine.

In 1972 Hohenemser was a co-founder of Clark's pioneering Science, Technology and Society (STS) Program, one of the earliest university programs of its kind. In 1976 he initiated with Rob Goble and others Clark's grid-connected co-generation plant, an idea that originated in Hohenemser's 1974 undergraduate class on energy policy. Since 1958 he has co-edited three books and authored 63 articles, chapters and testimonies in STS. Specific topics of current interest are (1) The prevention of nuclear proliferation in the post-cold-war era; (2) risks of the commercial nuclear power plants, particularly old US plants afflicted with pressure vessel cracks and plants of the Chernobyl design in the former Soviet Union; (3) the generic study of the structure and management of technological hazards, (4) the aftermath of the accident at Chernobyl with emphasis on thyroid cancers and "excess evacuation". (5) Ways to make Clark more energy efficient and less dependent on fossil fuels.

Hohenemser has a special interest in "environmental success stories," which he says are needed to counter the "gloom and doom" that afflicts so many environmental issues. As examples, which he promotes in his teaching of ES&P, he counts the following:

  1. The mobilization of a world-wide environmental movement by Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring.
  2. The dramatic improvements of auto safety through government regulation, following Ralph Nader's 1966 book Unsafe at any speed.
  3. The limitation of the spread of nuclear weapons through the 1968 Non-nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
  4. The dramatic reduction of air pollution in the US since the passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act and its sequels.
  5. The partial preservation of the planets high altitude, ultra-violet blocking ozone layer through the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning the use of ozone destroying CVCs.
  6. he Pugwash Conferences, winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, for promoting open communication between scientists at work on critical environmental and arms limitation problems, while bypassing governments for more than 30 years.
  7. The comprehensive nuclear test ban of 1996, prohibiting nuclear weapons testing by all states, and signed by more than 150 governments.
  8. The universal ban on land mines, winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, initiated by a single Vermont woman, consummated by an alliance of NGOs, signed by over 100 countries so far.

Hohenemser's has also worked on experimental nuclear spectroscopy applied to solids in the period 1960-93. During this he was mentor/colleague to 15 Ph.Ds. and 4 post-doctoral fellows at Brandeis and Clark. Work of this group included pioneering studies of static and dynamic critical phenomena (1965-93), defect structure and dynamics in metallic solids (1973-85), and high Tc superconductivity (1987-92). All these studies employed Mössbauer spectroscopy and/or perturbed gamma-gamma angular correlations, and many depended on special temperature control techniques with stability in the milli-Kelvin range. With members of this group of students and post-docs Hohenemser published 80 refereed articles and 2 refereed review papers. The experimental group on nuclear spectroscopy ended when Hohenemser became physically disabled by multiple sclerosis in 1992.

Hohenemser is a graduate of Swarthmore College and received a Ph.D. from Washington University (St. Louis) in 1963. He did post-doctoral work and taught for seven years at Brandeis University before coming to Clark in 1971. After coming to Clark he held visiting appointments at the University of California in 1990-91, the University of Konstanz (Germany) in 1986, and the University of Groningen (Netherlands) in 1973-74 and 1978-79. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Society of Risk Analysis.

Hohenemser symposium

Updated 28 March 2001.