Dr. Robert B. Raphael



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Dr. Robert B. Raphael, born Oct. 28, 1929, in Los Angeles, Calif., and died Jan. 27, 2014, in Bangor.

Whenever he crossed the causeway connecting Mount Desert Island to the mainland, Dr. Robert Barnett Raphael smiled and said he was home. While he had been a frequent visitor to the Island for decades, he fulfilled his longtime dream of living on the Island in 1990 when he took residence in Southwest Harbor. He remained there happily, if a little reclusively, until illness forced him to relocate to Bangor in 2012 for cancer treatments. Robert had a detailed knowledge of the Island’s many hiking trails and never stopped extolling the great physical beauty around him.

He was a nuclear physicist by training. He held a Ph.D. from Harvard University and worked closely with both Edward Teller and Robert Oppenheimer, two fathers of nuclear physics, during his post-doctoral years. He was a professor of physics for some two decades. A self-taught classicist, he spent two years teaching the classics at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md., and never tired of reading Homer in the original Greek. Robert left academia in 1981 for a position as a senior scientist at the defense contractor BDM, briefly a part of Ford Aerospace.

In retirement, reading and study of some form was a large part of his daily life and his extensive library encompassed volumes on String Theory, neurobiology, philosophy, art, poetry, current affairs and many other subjects. He also was an amateur astronomer who devoted many a cold Maine night to looking through his telescope; his observations were recorded in international astronomy databases.

His love for nature and classical music was married to a deep spirituality. Born to Jewish parents, Robert was a convert to Roman Catholicism and spent six years following his post-doctoral studies as a Carthusian monk at the Grand Chartreuse monastery near Genoble, France. For the two-plus decades he lived on Mount Desert Island, he was a regular worshipper at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Southwest Harbor.

His childhood was spent in Los Angeles and New York. Robert was the only child of Maurice and Sophye Raphael. He had two children from his 15-year marriage to Louise Raphael, a professor of mathematics. Robert, 84, had been battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. He is survived by his children and his five grandchildren.


Know when to pay your respects.