Arrow-right Camera
News >  Nation/World

In passing

Joseph Rotblat, 96, scientist, activist

London Joseph Rotblat, the Polish-born atomic scientist who quit the World War II Manhattan Project because of his horror at the prospect of future nuclear wars and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for work over six decades to promote disarmament, has died. He was 96.

Rotblat died Wednesday in his sleep at his home in London, a spokesman said. No cause of death was given.

Rotblat, a founder and longtime chairman of the pro-peace Pugwash Conference founded in 1957, was recognized by the Nobel Committee in 1995 along with the organization of maverick scientists who campaigned for a world where armed conflict would one day be a memory.

Rotblat was derided in establishment circles during much of the Cold War as a dupe of the communists and fellow traveler because of his willingness to meet with and work for his cause along with Soviet scientists. But, late in his life, Queen Elizabeth recognized him by bestowing a knighthood.

Even before he left Poland, Rotblat had concluded that recent discoveries concerning fission and the ability to split a uranium atom with a neutron had made the creation of an atomic weapon possible in theory. Concerned the German scientists would be working in the same direction, he joined in a British effort to create an atomic bomb as a deterrent.

Their British research was later merged with the top-secret American-led effort to create the bomb, called the Manhattan Project, and Rotblat joined the other scientists at Los Alamos, N.M.

R.L. Burnside, 78, blues musician

Memphis, Tenn. R.L. Burnside, the son of a sharecropper who spent 40 years as a musician before his raw, edgy blues sound brought him fame far beyond his Mississippi hill country roots, has died. He was 78.

Burnside died Thursday at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., announced Fat Possum, his record label. No cause of death was given, but Burnside had suffered a heart attack in recent years.

Burnside’s big break came in former journalist Robert Palmer’s 1991 documentary and accompanying soundtrack called “Deep Blues” on the music and culture of the Mississippi Delta.

At Palmer’s urging, the fledgling Fat Possum records in Oxford, Miss., signed Burnside. Palmer produced his debut album, “Too Bad Jim,” which became one of the influential blues albums of the 1990s.

One of Burnside’s songs, “It’s Bad You Know” was included in the HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Robert Lee Burnside was born Nov. 23, 1926, in Harmontown, Miss. He failed to master the harmonica, so he picked up a guitar at 16 and was performing in public by 21.

Katrina Swanson, 70, Episcopalian reformer

Manset, Maine The Rev. Katrina Swanson, who challenged church law in the 1970s as one of a group of women ordained as the first female Episcopal priests, has died. She was 70.

Swanson died Aug. 27 of colon cancer at her home in Manset, Maine, said her husband, the Rev. George Gaines Swanson, who also is an Episcopal priest.

In 1974, Katrina Swanson’s father was among the bishops who presided at the ordination of Swanson and 10 other women in Philadelphia. The Episcopal Church eventually approved the ordination of women in 1976, and the women became officially recognized as priests. In the U.S., the church now has more than 4,000 female priests and deacons.