News Center

In Memoriam: Judith (Judy) Goldhaber

Judy GExplaining scientific research so that the public can understand and appreciate its value is what science writers do and no one ever did it better than Judith (Judy) Goldhaber who wrote more than a thousand articles about Berkeley Lab research during her 35-year career here. Judy passed away on May 26 at Alta Bates hospital following a hemorrhagic stroke she suffered on May 14. She was 81.

With her long mane of flaming red hair, Judy Goldhaber was one of the most recognizable figures on the Hill, along with her husband of 41 years, renowned physicist Gerson Goldhaber, who died in 2010. In addition to their “power-couple” status at the Lab, Judy and Gerson also collaborated on two books of poems, Sonnets from Aesop and Sarah Laughed: Sonnets from Genesis. Gerson was the artist who created the illustrations, Judy was the poet. She was also a playwright who wrote the book and lyrics for a musical about Stephen Hawking, entitled “Falling Through a Hole in the Air,” that was produced and performed at San Francisco City College. Her collaborator on that and other musical projects was Berkeley Lab astrophysicist Carl Pennypacker.

Poetry, especially sonnets, were Judy’s first love as a writer, but she fell hard for science, especially physics and astronomy, while studying journalism at Brooklyn College. Though she was born in Brooklyn, she grew up in Rocky Hill, New Jersey, in a rural house that George Washington once slept in and which had no plumbing, electricity or running water when her family first moved in.

“Growing up I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a science writer because of all the writers in my family none of them had anything to do with science,” she once said in an interview. “They were either creative writers or journalists or writers about politics.”

Judy moved to San Francisco in 1960 and began reviewing science books for the Chronicle and the Examiner under the pen name of Judith Shally. She joined the Public Information Department staff of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in 1961, where she met Gerson. They were married in 1969. In the summer of 1976, Judy oversaw the launching of the LBL Newsmagazine, a quarterly journal that chronicled the scientific accomplishments of the laboratory and the people behind those accomplishments. In the pre-digital era of print communications, the LBL Newsmagazine, for which Judy served as editor-in-chief and contributing writer, broke the mold for institutional journals in its broad reader-friendly approach.

“Each of us is a specialist in our own field but a layman outside of it with only limited time to bring to subjects outside our own work and training,” she wrote in the magazine’s first issue. “But what we all share is a curiosity about the science, an interest in the people who do the science, and a desire to learn more about both.”

Judy is survived by her daughters Michaela Goldhaber and Shaya Cuellar; grandsons Sam, Ben and Charles Goldhaber, and Cayden Cuellar; and step-son Nathaniel Goldhaber and his wife Marilyn. She will be buried next to Gerson at Gan Shalom cemetery. The address is 1100 Bear Creek Rd, Briones, CA.  The service is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2 at 1 p.m.