Tony Klein (right) and Geoff Opat discuss their 2π rotation experiment at the University of Melbourne School of Physics.  (Thanks to Norman Wodetzki for permission to reproduce this photograph from the university archives.)

A prominent researcher enjoyed teaching, applying and defending science

Tony Klein and Professor Geoff Opat AO (1935 -2002) were inseparable friends and colleagues from their undergraduate days in Melbourne. They were passionate about physics, the world of knowledge, good education and good universities. In the late 1960s Tony and Geoff worked with Professor David Caro in high energy physics. Tony and Geoff then explored fundamental physics with neutron beams. Their landmark experiments published in 1975-1976 demonstrated that neutrons, although subatomic particles of matter, exhibit quantum mechanical attributes associated with waves.

Tony Klein (right) and Geoff Opat discuss their 2π rotation experiment at the University of Melbourne School of Physics. (Thanks to Norman Wodetzki for permission to reproduce this photograph from the university archives.)Credit:University of Melbourne

Later, Tony, Geoff and Al Cimmino invented the “Rubbery Ruler”, a flexible elastic sensor for measuring length. The “Rubbery Ruler”, worn in the spacesuits, provided the European Space Agency with precise information on the movements of the crew in weightlessness. The “Rubbery Ruler”, winner of an R&D 100 award in 1995 for new technological products, had many potential medical, physiological, anatomical and horticultural applications.

Geoff’s untimely death in 2002 was a great loss for Tony. The death of Tony’s cousin Victor Spitzer (1924-2013) was another great loss. Vic and his family emigrated from Romania to Australia in 1939 and he was Tony’s “big brother”. On their daily walks in Studley Park, Tony and Vic talked about their life, work, family and travels.

Tony spoke seven languages ​​and was a gifted speaker. Carolyn Rasmussen describes Tony’s teaching in her story of the University of Melbourne Move the boundaries (2018). “He… instinctively thought about the best way to teach difficult and unfamiliar subjects… he remembered what he found difficult as a student and how he preferred the subject to be presented. For Tony, the interesting lecture…was an intellectual adventure…you watch their faces and keep explaining until those faces light up.

Tony was also an excellent science communicator, able to explain scientific concepts simply and convincingly. He wrote a regular science column for age In the 1980s. In July 1969, ABC TV invited Tony to provide live commentary on the Apollo 11 moon landing. Tony commented on the blurry images sent by Apollo 11 from space and the moon. He also featured ABC TV commentary on the Apollo 12 and 13 missions.

Tony served in organizations where his knowledge of optical physics was invaluable. From 1991 to 2010 he chaired the research committee of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and was deputy chair of the hospital’s management committee from 1993 to 1995. Tony has worked with researchers from other disciplines. He has collaborated with Professor Robyn Sloggett of the Grimwade Center on research into materials analysis and provenance documentation for the authentication of Australian paintings. Tony’s expertise in optical physics helped develop principles for detecting counterfeits and authenticating paintings.

He has been a loyal member of University House for over 50 years. Every Friday, he had lunch at the renowned Water Table Lunch Group. He relished the exchange of news and views across fields and disciplines, good humor, a plate of goulash or calamari, the opportunity to discuss topics such as why whales get stranded, why abalone shells are shiny, etc.

Recipients of the University of Melbourne award are honored with a bronze plaque in their name on Professors Walk. Tony was understandably delighted that his “Leading Researcher in Physics, Inspirational Lecturer, and Much Valued Leader and Mentor” plaque had been placed near the entrance to University House.

Tony was a great traveler. With his wife, Suzanne, he enjoyed touring the French Alps on sabbaticals at the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble conducting research in neutron physics, doing family “roots” tours in Romania in van with her daughters Anita and Stella, Scandinavian cruises on the Hurtigruten, visits to Israel for reunions with high school friends who had emigrated from Romania, river trips to Victoria, NSW, SA and Tasmania in motorized dinghies with friends the McTigues and Satchells. And expeditions to Lizard Island with Bruce Livett to collect poisonous snails. In his latest adventure, he and Livett traveled Borneo in search of orangutans.

The last year of his life, 2021, was very difficult as he battled poor health during a year of COVID-19 restrictions and was unable to work regularly at university and have lunch with friends at University House.

Tony was buried in Lyndhurst Jewish Cemetery. A massive boulder stands near Lyndhurst Chapel with the inscription ‘WITHOUT MEMORY WE ARE NOTHING’, carved by Andrew Rogers, brother-in-law of Tony’s great friend Geoff Opat.

He loved and was proud of his wife and family. He loved the University, the School of Physics and the University House. He loved the Academy of Sciences and his work as President of the Victorian Section. He enjoyed explaining, teaching, applying and defending science.

Tony was a proud Aussie. The son of Romanian migrants who survived the Holocaust, he had a happy and productive life. Tony was a shining example of how successive waves of migrants, many of them refugees from war-torn countries, enriched Australia, contributing greatly to their new country.

He is mourned by Suzanne (née Gurvich), his second wife and best friend of 50 years.

Tony and his first wife Mavis Cohen (1937-2014) met when they were high school students. Married in 1958, they had two daughters Anita and Stella. They divorced in 1971. Tony is mourned by Anita and Stella, stepsons Ian and Peter, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and first cousins.

Everyone who knew Tony admired his keen intelligence, vast knowledge, insatiable curiosity, quirky sense of humor, warmth, decency and human values.

Professor Leon Mann AO and Professor David Satchell were Tony Klein’s friends and colleagues from the University House Water Table Lunch Group.

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