Fred Begay, Nuclear Physicist, Navajo/Ute (1932-2013)
Fred Begay is the first Native American to receive a Ph.D. in Physics, specifically Nuclear Physics. As a young boy (age 10), he was taken from his reservation home and placed at the Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School where he was trained to become a farmer and therefore did not graduate from high school. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War (1951-1955) and was assigned to the Air-Rescue Squadron in Korea. After serving in Korea, he attended the University of New Mexico where he received his B.S. (1961) in math and science, his M.S. (1963) in physics and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics (1971), after which in the same year, he joined the Physics research staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory and studied thermonuclear fusion. Additionally, he was part of the space physics research team funded by NASA that studied the origin of high energy gamma rays and solar neutrons. Of note, Dr. Begay received a number of awards and honors in his lifetime and was elected to the New York Academy of Sciences in 2004 for his contribution to physics research.