Bertram Donn, 93, a NASA astrophysicist and founder of peace and justice organizations in Prince George’s County, died Dec. 28 at his home in Greenbelt. He had pneumonia.
His wife, Marjory Donn, confirmed the death.
Dr. Donn worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt from 1959 until his retirement in 1989. He spent many years as chief of the center’s astrochemistry branch.
He was on the steering committee of the International Halley Watch, which studied Halley’s Comet when the comet was most recently seen in 1986. Twice — in 1983 and 1988 — he received Goddard’s exceptional achievement award.
Bertram David Donn was a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a 1940 physics graduate of Brooklyn College. During World War II, he was a physicist with military and civilian laboratories.
At Harvard, he received a master’s degree in astrophysics in 1947 and a doctorate in astrophysics in 1953. Before settling in the Washington area for his NASA career, he taught at Wayne State University in Detroit and did research at the University of Chicago.
After his Goddard retirement, Dr. Donn was a visiting professor at the University of Virginia until 1995. U-Va. then honored him at a symposium at which colleagues presented papers related to his astrophysical work.
Dr. Donn was among the founders of the Greenbelt Fair Housing Committee, the Greenbelt Peace Committee, the Prince George’s Peace and Justice Coalition, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, and the Prince George’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the early 1970s, he advised the ACLU in its lawsuit seeking full compliance in Prince George’s County with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling banning racial segregation in public schools. During the 1960s, he participated in organizations picketing racially segregated apartments in suburban Maryland.
He was a member of Machar: the Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
His first marriage, to Mary Creason, ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Marjory Maxwell Donn of Greenbelt; three children from his first marriage, Stephen Donn and Arthur Donn, both of Greenbelt, and Susan Owens of Ventura, Calif.; two sons from his second marriage, Jeffrey Donn of Beltsville and Allen Donn of Woodstock, Ga.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.