Remembering Paul Herzberg (1936 – 2015)

We are very saddened to hear of the passing of a dear friend and dedicated alumnus Dr. Paul A. Herzberg who passed away on December 2, 2015.

Paul was born in Saskatoon on September 23, 1936. His parents Luise and Gerhard Herzberg were refugees from Nazi Germany who arrived in Canada in 1935. His mother was an astrophysicist and his father was a physicist and a Nobel Prize-winner. His father became a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, where he taught for ten years. Paul later authored a memoir of his mother, highlighting her accomplishments as an astrophysicist and the challenges she faced as the wife of a world-famous scientist.

Tim and PaulPaul’s first encounter with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) was in 1957, when he participated in the International Seminar to Ghana. Paul had finished his third year at Queen’s University where he was majoring in physics and mathematics.

Paul had this to say about his memorable experience on the Ghana 1957 Seminar: “Since I am a Physics student at university, the seminar was not only a great introduction to Africa, but also an introduction to studies in the humanities and social sciences. My future life will be enriched by the encounter with students and faculty in these fields of study removed from my own. For this reason, I hope that more science students will attend future seminars” (Paul Herzberg 1957).

Fellow 1957 Seminar participant, Joan Fiddler Burrows described her experience with Paul during the Seminar: “Before going, Paul, like the rest of us, wrote papers on the theme “Africa and Tomorrow: the Aims and Problems of Developing Countries”. We had orientation sessions in England and Nigeria, before the three-week live-in seminar at the University of Ghana in Accra, with other students and faculty from every university in Africa south of the Sahara. Paul and I were also part of a group of six who travelled around Ghana for ten days in a minivan. What better way to begin a lifelong friendship!”

Paul graduated in 1958 with a degree in physics and mathematics from Queen’s University. He then obtained a Masters in Physics from Princeton University. Afterwards he studied Psychology at the University of Illinois (Urbana) where he obtained a PhD. Paul joined York University in 1966, where he spent over twenty-five years teaching a required undergraduate course in the Department of Psychology to more than 3000 students. Paul retired in 2002, and dedicated many years that followed to writing the memoir of his mother, Luise Herzberg. Astrophysicist. A Memoir.

Here is what friends and colleagues have to say about Paul:

Joan Fiddler Burrows: Someone remarked once that “the seminar seems to have been a golden strand in your lives”. How true! Not only did those weeks have an enormous impact at the time, but also the learnings and experiences were invaluable in our personal lives. Paul and I agreed that we saw our country and the world through a changed lens, that each of us was changed, and that we have subsequently made our own contributions throughout our lives with a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. Paul did this with good scholarship and great caring as a university teacher.