Albert Allen Bartlett; AM 1948, PhD 1951; died September 7, 2013
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Al Bartlett, retired CU-Boulder professor, dies at age 90
Bartlett gave famous overpopulation lecture more than 1,700 times
By Brittany Anas, Camera Staff Writer
Al Bartlett -- a renowned University of Colorado physics professor famous for a lecture he delivered at least 1,700 times -- died over the weekend.
Bartlett, 90, died Saturday. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma.
“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” Chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a statement. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim.”
CU's Environmental Center is training a cadre of 50 volunteers who can carry on Bartlett's lectures -- and had been working closely with the professor to preserve the lecture on overpopulation during the months leading up to his death. When Bartlett first gave his lecture “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of students in 1969; the world's population was then 3.7 billion.
He gave the lecture another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven countries, speaking to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students. His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Now, the world's population is 7.1 billion.
His famous statement was: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
A video on YouTube of his lecture has been viewed more than 5 million times. Bartlett served on the Boulder Campus Planning Commission for 25 years and was chairman of the faculty committee responsible for designing the building that now houses the Department of Physics and the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.
Along with Professor Frank C. Walz, Bartlett designed physics lecture halls in the Duane complex that included the innovation of rotating stages that allowed for scientific demonstrations to be in use during one class while another was being set up for the next class -- a process that takes too long to squeeze into a 10-minute break between classes.
Bartlett also helped initiate the “Blue Line” amendment in Boulder that keeps homes from being built farther up Boulder's foothills by restricting the city water supply to a maximum elevation.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor, and is survived by their four daughters -- Carol, Jane, Lois and Nancy.
A memorial service is being planned to be held in Boulder in October.
The Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship was established in 2010 to aid CU-Boulder physics students who plan to pursue careers teaching high school science. Before his death, Bartlett requested that any memorial gifts be made to the University of Colorado Foundation Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship Fund, in care of the Department of Physics, 390 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Published in the Boulder Daily Camera on September 9, 2013}
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Al Bartlett, who repeated lecture on population growth 1,742 times, has died
By Alison Noon
University of Colorado professor Al Bartlett, who delivered a lecture on world population growth at least 1,742 times during his lifetime, died Saturday in Boulder. He was 90.
Albert Allen Bartlett, was born March 21, 1923, in Shanghai, China.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Colgate University and graduate degrees in physics from Harvard. He began his teaching career at CU in 1950 after spending two years as an experimental physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project.
"Al Bartlett was a treasured friend, mentor, teacher, scholar and public servant. He was an influential leader in the Department of Physics, the university, the Boulder community and the global environmental movement," physics department chairman Paul Beale said in a university news release Monday. "Generations of students were proud to have called him professor."
He retired in 1988 but continued to teach CU students for years thereafter.
"Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies," Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in the release. "His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement."
A celebrated speaker on world population growth, Bartlett first delivered his lecture "Arithmetic, Population and Energy" to a group of CU students Sept. 19, 1969, when the world population was about 3.7 billion. [http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy.html]
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function," Bartlett famously said in his lecture.
He gave the talk, which drew a connection between population growth and energy consumption, another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to students, corporations and government agencies, the release said."His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim," DiStefano said in the release.
The world population is about 7.1 billion this year, according to the release.
The Boulder campus pledged this summer to celebrate Bartlett's population-growth talk with at least three volunteer performances of the lecture in 2013-14. The lecture also has gained popularity on YouTube. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOrvGDRLT7A]
Bartlett was outspoken on the depletion of worldwide oil reserves. He frequently wrote letters to the editor and opinion pieces for local newspapers on scientific and civic issues. [http://www.denverpost.com/ci_4503074]
In his 25 years on the Boulder Campus Planning Commission, Bartlett advocated for innovations as simple as 1-inch diameter chalk to ensure students could see what was being written on the classroom board and as complex as rotating stages in classrooms that allow scientific demonstrations to be used in one class and set up for the next simultaneously. He also helped design multiple buildings on campus including the Duane Physical Laboratories Complex.
In his decades as a Boulder resident, Bartlett worked to preserve open space and initiated the "Blue Line" charter amendment that restricted growth in the city's foothills by limiting the elevation to which municipal water could be delivered.
Bartlett received the Daily Camera's Pacesetter Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006 and the American Association of Physics Teachers' Robert A. Millikan Award and Melba Newell Phillips Award. He served as the association's president in 1978.
Other awards he received include CU's Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence in Teaching Awards, Robert L. Stearns Award, Thomas Jefferson Award, University of Colorado Centennial Medallion, President's University Service Award, University Heritage Center Award and the Presidential Citation.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor, and is survived by daughters Carol, Jane, Lois and Nancy.
A memorial service is to be held in Boulder in October.
Alison Noon: 303-954-1223, email@example.com or twitter.com/alisonnoon
[Published in The Denver Post on Septembr 10, 2013]