Henry Hurwitz, Jr., a physicist at General Electric Co. who pioneered the theory and design of nuclear power plants and most recently helped engineer the reactor for the Seawolf nuclear submarine, died April 14 in Schenectady, N.Y., at the age of 73.
In 1955, a year after Fortune magazine named him as one of the top 10 scientists in U.S. industry, Hurwitz contributed to establishing the first atomic containment sphere for GE. The development advanced industry-wide safety protocols for enclosing nuclear reactors.
Hurwitz received his Ph.D. in quantum mechanics from Harvard University in 1941. Two years later, he helped Edward Teller's staff of researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico develop the thermonuclear reactions for the hydrogen bomb. In 1946, Hurwitz became one of the first scientists to work at GE's Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Schenectady. In 1947 he transferred to the GE Research and Development Center to become manager of the Nucleonics and Radiation Branch. His team of scientists used advanced theta-pinch techniques to harness fusion reactions.
His interest in electronic devices, computer applications, and chemical engineering prompted GE to recognize Hurwitz's accomplishments in 1975 by naming him a Coolidge Fellow, the GE R&D Center's highest honor.