Phillip E. LeCorbeiller, professor of Applied Physics and of General Education Emeritus, died last Thursday following an illness at his home in Wassenaar, Holland. He was 89 years old.
An expert on the electronics of communication, electro-mechanical systems and acoustics, the French-born LeCorbeiller possessed "a quality one often associates with French people--the ability to take complicated subjects and make them clear," I. Bernard Cohen, Thomas Professor of the History of Science, said yesterday.
"He was one of the great teachers at the University," Cohen said of LeCorbeiller, who retired in 1959.
"One of the things he felt strongly about was that most people had no sense of the role of technology in society," Cohen added.
LeCorbeiller held posts with the French Ministry of Communications from 1929-39 and was technical and program director of the French National Broadcasting Network until he came to the United States in 1941 to escape Nazi-occupied France.
After teaching electronics to army and navy personnel here during World War II, LeCorbeiller joined the faculty in 1945 as lecturer on Applied Physics. He became professor of General Education and Applied Physics in 1949.
Originally trained as a mathemetician, LeCorbeiller received his doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1926, following a career in the Signal Corps of the French military during World War I. From 1932-39 he was professor of the theory of electricity at the Sorbonne's Graduate School of Communications. He returned to study at the Sorbonne in 1936 and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1938.
"The thing that was most interesting about Philippe LeCorbeiller is that in addition to having impeccable credentials, he was a man of wide cultivation," Cohen said, adding that LeCorbeiller also taught himself Russian when he was in his 60s. "He had a marvelous linguistic flair," Cohen said.
Following his retirement from Harvard, LeCorbeiller was professor at the New School for Social Research in New York and Neilson Research Professor at Smith College.
LeCorbeiller published many articles in French and American technical periodicals, but his most important work was on the advanced theory of electrical machinery. He was a fellow of the American Acoustical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Physical Society and the Econometrics Society.