Daniel Q. Posin, Physicist, Won Emmys, 93
Daniel Posin died Wednesday, May 21, 2003, of cardiac and respiratory failure, at the age 93.
Daniel Q. Posin went to great lengths to explain the way the world behaved. Sometimes that meant the physics professor would do a handstand. Other times it meant using kittens to represent the nine planets orbiting the sun. But most often, it meant dancing, even during a university lecture on higher mathematics. Two months ago, Dr. Posin was still dancing in the halls of Woldenberg Village Nursing Home in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"The universe danced in his mind," said his daughter, Kathryn, who described her father as a cross between Groucho Marx and Albert Einstein.
Dr. Posin was born in Russian Turkestan near the Caspian Sea. His family immigrated to San Francisco, California in 1914.
In 1935 he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a doctorate in physics, launching a career in which he wrote 30 books, won six Emmy Awards for his lively educational programs on Chicago television and was nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But most of all, Dr. Posin was a teacher, a university professor whom Einstein once described as having "extraordinary pedagogic talents."
Writer Edward Barry portrayed him this way in a 1963 profile in the Chicago Tribune Magazine: "Imagine a profoundly learned man who likes loud sports clothes, a scientist who talks slang like a fight promoter, a holder of a doctor's degree who looks like an actor, and a university professor who would be quite capable of carving out a career as a comic."
Dr. Posin eloped with Frances Schweitzer, a graduate student in English, and was married to her for 68 years until her death in September.
He was an instructor in Berkeley's physics department for two years and taught in Panama and at Montana State University before becoming president of the National Academy of Sciences in 1943. From 1944 to 1946, he worked at the Radiation and Research Laboratory of Electronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1946 he became chairman of the department of physics at North Dakota State College in Fargo, North Dakota, and took a second job as the area's first television weather forecaster, developing his animated on-screen persona. Dr. Posin also had a serious side. He was disturbed by the use of the atomic bomb during World War II and shared Einstein's belief that the fate of Earth would depend upon "decisions made in the village square." So, Dr. Posin began giving more than 3,000 lectures on peace to farmers, business leaders, parent-teacher organizations, Kiwanis Clubs and other groups throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 1955 Dr. Posin and three other North Dakota State professors were fired in an incident he would later attribute in part to McCarthyism.
Dr. Posin took a position a year later teaching physics at DePaul University. He became a consultant to the Museum of Science and Industry and wrote a science column for the Tribune Magazine.
He won six Emmys for his educational series broadcast by WGN and WTTW, including Dr. Posin's Universe, On the Shoulders of Giants and Out of This World. He served as an on-air consultant for WGN during the 1960s space race.
In 1967 he moved on to San Francisco State University, where he taught physics and earth sciences until his retirement in 1996 at age 87.
"I think, because he was a poor little boy in the bottom of the boat who arrived [in the United States] not speaking English and his father was a janitor who died of tuberculosis, he had the kindest heart in the world," said his daughter.