By Julianne Dalcanton | January 5, 2010 9:53 am

I am heartbroken to learn the loss of a member of the physics community in the recent avalanche in Switzerland. I have few details, but it appears one physicist was killed in the avalanche, and that at least two others from the party have been hospitalized. Many others were lost, including some of the rescuers, who were swept up in a second avalanche.

Condolences to all who have been affected by this tragedy.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    All readers are thinking “Who is this famous physicist who died in an avalanche?”. I don’t have any details, but according to reports accessible via Google the physicist (born in Lucerne) worked at a bank in Zürich (many physicists work at banks—they can’t all stay in academia).

    Of course, a loss is a loss, whatever the education, current job, place of birth, residence or nationality.

    Why do I think that all readers are thinking it must be a well know physicist? Because you posted this about his death. Physicists die every day and it only makes the news (or a blog) if they are famous.

  • ??

    What’s your problem, Phillip??

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    No problem. I just found the post rather strange, for the reasons I mentioned. Posting would
    make sense if Julianne knew him, but she doesn’t seem to indicate that.

  • Sherryayn

    Perhaps she has inside information or heard something and wanted to share it with the physics community or those outside it that may be interested. With a name at least well wishes can be directed specifically.

  • anonymous

    very sad. he was a good guy

  • Linda Grieve

    His name is Thomas Binoth, working as a lecturer at Edinburgh University. Lovely man.

  • marc

    It is interesting that Phillip and anonymous assumed the physicist was male. Apparently, this time, the assumption was correct. Thanks, Linda…

  • ??

    Marc, when I originally read this post, his name was there, as Linda says.

  • mupl
  • Count Iblis

    Not as well known as Heinz Pagels who also died on a mountain but that doesn’t make it less tragic. :(

  • Gary

    So much for a physicist’s rational appreciation of probabilities.

    So much for those who don’t celebrate risking the probabilities they embrace.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    Hhmmm….Either there were two physicists killed, or the statement that the physicist worked at a bank in Zürich was wrong (or Binoth was both a Reader in Edinburgh and worked at a bank in Zürich, which seems rather unlikely).

    I didn’t assume he was male. Rather, the article I read (in German) used the male form of the German word for physicist (Physiker) and not the female form (Physikerin).

    Here’s an example article mentioning a male physicist from Lucerne who worked at a bank in Zürich and was recently killed in an avalanche in Switzerland.


    Apparently ANOTHER (astrophysicist) survived both avalanches:




    It seems the physicist who worked at a bank worked at CERN back in the 1990s.

  • Thomas Larsson

    Physicists are usually not pbysically violent (unless we discuss string theory), but it seems to me that physicists who do die prematurely are often involved in some kind of montaineering or skiing accident. This may be an example, and somebody that I think that I met (in Como, 1992).

  • Heinrich Paes

    For those of you who knew Thomas, there is a website at Edinburgh U. for condolences and memories:


  • coolstar

    My perception is the same as that of Thomas Larsson: I know of one American physicist who was seriously injured in a climbing accident a few years ago and was in another such accident last year where his climbing companion was killed. A famous astronomer was killed when he crashed his private plane a few years ago (he apparently was well known for falling asleep while flying).

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    The pilot would be David Schramm, I suppose.


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