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Burstein family / Wikimedia Commons

Former professor emeritus of physics at Penn Elias Burstein died on June 17 due to heart failure at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

A groundbreaking physicist with over 200 scientific papers published throughout his career, Burstein was 99 years old and is survived by his wife, three daughters and two grandchildren.

Burstein began teaching at Penn in 1958 following positions at the University of Kansas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1961, along with chemistry professor Robert Hughes and member of the Metallurgy Department Robert Madden, Burstein founded the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter at Penn. He became the Mary Amanda Wood Professor of Physics in 1982 and retired in 1988 as professor emeritus, often working in labs with students.

Burstein was a pioneer in research that aided in the development of silicon semiconductors. He was one of the first scientists to use lasers to further explore the properties of silicon.

“He’s really more of a basic scientist in understanding the properties of silicon and how to manipulate the properties of silicon, the material that underlies all computer technology,” his former Penn colleague A.T. Charlie Johnson said to Philly.com.

“This has paved the way for the modern computer chips that we have today.”

Burstein also helped to develop current scientific knowledge on Raman scattering, a process that describes the mechanism behind the production of one in every 10 million photons at varying frequencies from an atom or molecule.

Many of Burstein’s published papers focused on his work concerning crystalline structures like rock salt or zinc ore. His work led him to be elected in 1979 to the National Academy of Sciences. He also received the Frank Isakson Prize of the American Physical Society for his research in the properties of insulators and semiconductors in 1986 according to the Boston Globe.

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