Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oleksa-Myron Petrovych Bilaniuk, Centennial Professor Emeritus of Physics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and former President of The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S.A., died on March 27, 2009, at home after a year-long battle with brain cancer. He was 82.

Prof. Bilaniuk was born on December 15, 1926 in the village of Sianichek, near Sianok, in Lemkivshchyna in the Carpathian Mountains, the only child of his parents Petro and Maria Bilaniuk. During World War II he was taken to work on a German farm, and then liberated by the US Army in 1945, ending up in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany. He eventually received a scholarship to the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he studied engineering. He came to the United States in late September 1951, after winning a scholarship to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. There he earned two B.S.E.s and two M.A.s in mathematics and physics, and, in 1957, a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics. In 1960-62, at the University of Rochester, he collaborated with his colleague and friend George Sudarshan to prove a possible existence of superluminal particles is fully consistent with Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, even though Einstein himself said that no object could move faster than light in vacuum. Their publication on the subject became one of the most quoted physics papers.

Oleksa-Myron Bilaniuk joined the faculty of Swarthmore College in 1964 as an associate professor of physics. He was an innovative and beloved teacher. During sabbaticals, Dr. Bilaniuk conducted nuclear research at leading accelerators in the U.S.A., Germany, France, Ukraine, and Italy. Some of his work involved proving the existence of He2 (the diproton); production of D++ in a hypernuclear reaction; neutron-neutron quasifree scattering and nuclear reactions induced by a 60 MeV gamma rays, among others. Professor Bilaniuk officially retired from Swarthmore College in 1990, but he continued to teach classes there until 1993 and remained active in Ukrainian-American scientific organizations until 2008. He was very involved in editorial work, serving as the physics editor and editorial board member for the five-volume Encyclopedia of Ukraine, published between 1984-1993 and on the editorial board of the Ukrainian Journal of Physics beginning in 1991. Dr. Bilaniuk was elected a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 1992. He served as President of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S.A. from 1998 to 2006, and in 2007 he was awarded a medal of recognition for his service by Ukrainian President Yushchenko. Dr. Bilaniuk also collaborated with Ukrainian lexicographers on a 100,000-word English-Ukrainian-English Dictionary of Physics and Technology, to be published this year.

Oleksa-Myron Bilaniuk was a certified FAA glider and single-engine pilot and flight instructor, an avid world traveler, a fluent speaker of eight languages, and a member of the Burlaky in the Ukrainian scouting organization Plast.

Oleksa-Myron Bilaniuk is survived by his wife of 44 years, Larissa Bilaniuk; daughters Larissa Sand (with husband Jeff Sand) and Laada Bilaniuk (with husband Ben Fitzhugh); grandchildren Zoriana Sand, Laska Fitzhugh, and Larissa Fitzhugh; mother-in-law Myroslava Zubal; and his nephews Stefan, Nykolai (with wife Miroslawa and children Olexa, Boris, and Ksenia), Michael, and Joseph Bilaniuk.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the USA. Oleksa devoted most of his retirement to the Academy and was its president for eight years, organizing conferences, co-editing many books and supporting young researchers. Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences, 206 West 100th Street, New York, NY 10025-5018

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