Rainer Berger, pioneer of carbon-14 dating

Dr. Rainer Berger, a longtime resident of Malibu and Professor Emeritus of geophysics, geology and anthropology, and director of the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory at UCLA, died on Jan. 8 in Le Vignau, France.

Berger was born on July 3, 1930 in Graz, Austria to Doris Marie Maugarete Schnoor and Anton Berger. In 1955, he came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar until 1957, and was naturalized in 1963. He graduated with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1960. On taking a research position at Lockheed Corporation in California, subsequent to his graduation, he was assigned to a division of plasma physics and worked on problems of life detection in extraterrestrial planets and nonbiogenic synthesis of biochemical systems.

In 1963 Berger accepted a position as Research Professor at UCLA to assist in the installation of carbon-14 preparation and counting equipment. This was one of the first such systems in the world for conducting age dating of organic material extending back 40,000 years. From 1966-1967, he was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Fellow and also became the National Science Foundation Fellow, which he held until 1968. Then, in 1968, he received the Distinguished Service Award at UCLA. The following year, Berger ended his reign of the Guggenheim Fellowship and was invited to join both the history and anthropology departments. Subsequently, he was given a joint appointment in the department of geography.

Berger taught both undergraduate and graduate classes and was invited to give speeches about his research around the world. He published more than 100 articles on the application of carbon-14 for solving archeological mysteries in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

Berger is survived by his fourth spouse, Andrea; daughter Gabriella, son Wolfgang; sister Helga; brother-in-law Gunter; niece Dorothy; and nephews Evo, Erik and Mark. He will be remembered for his clever wit, intelligence, passion for his research, living his life to the fullest and in the annals of carbon-14 dating as one of the pioneers.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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