BERKELEY -- Former Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory director Andrew Sessler, described as a visionary in the fields of theoretical physics and particle accelerator sciences, died Friday of cancer, lab officials said. He was 85.

Sessler, who lived in Oakland, came to Berkeley in 1959, serving as the lab's third director from 1973 to 1980.

Under his leadership, the lab grew to its largest size ever and expanded into energy efficiency and sustainable energy research. Sessler oversaw establishment of the lab's Energy and Environment Division, the first of its kind at any national laboratory.

"Andy Sessler changed the face and character of our laboratory," Paul Alivisatos, the current lab director, said in a news release. "He successfully made the case for science to aid our country during its first energy crisis and helped establish the lab's efforts that brought about important technologies and standards that have improved the way we conserve and consume energy."

Sessler is best known for his advances in modern high-performance particle accelerators. His work led to advances in high-luminosity proton colliders, providing the basis for CERN's Large Hadron Collider and the Berkeley lab's Advanced Light Source.


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Among his many accolades, Sessler won the Energy Department's Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award in 1970, the American Physical Society's (APS) Dwight Nicholson Medal in 1995, the APS Robert R. Wilson Prize in 1997 and the Enrico Fermi Award in 2014.

Born in 1928, Sessler earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard and a masters' and doctorate in physics from Columbia University. He was a member of the Ohio State faculty from 1954 to 1959 before joining the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.

In addition to being an avid outdoorsman, Sessler was also a noted humanitarian and advocate for scientific freedom. He was active in human rights issues with organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Amnesty International. He also worked to free Soviet dissident scientists through a group he cofounded -- Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov and Sharansky.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.