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Robert Joseph Birgeneau (born 25 March 1942) is a Canadian physicist educator and university administrator. He is the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Berkeleymarker, and was the fourteenth president of the University of Torontomarker from 2000 to 2004.


The first from his family to finish high school, Birgeneau graduated from St. Michael's College Schoolmarker in Toronto. He received a B.Sc in mathematics in 1963 from the St. Michael's College, University of Torontomarker, where he also met his wife Mary Catherine; they have four children. Birgeneau received his Ph.D in physics from Yale Universitymarker in 1966.

He spent a year each on the faculties of Yalemarker and the University of Oxfordmarker. From 1968 to 1975, he worked at AT&T Bell Laboratoriesmarker. He then joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker as a professor of physics. During his 25 years at MIT, he served as chair of the physics department and then as dean of science.

He left the University of Toronto before the end of his seven-year term, causing a flurry of controversy with his abrupt departure. He was recommended to the Regents by Robert Dynes.

On 14 June 2007, Birgeneau joined the Chancellor of Columbia University in condemning Britainmarker's University and College Union for boycotting Israelimarker academics and academic institutions and insisting that any boycott include their universities.

Citing the "likely" threat to California's academic competitiveness if Proposition 8 were passed, Birgeneau urged the UC Berkeley community to vote against a 2008 state ballot measure which would eliminate the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

In November 2008, former President Robert Dynes' close aide and his UC Associate President Linda Morris Williams, was awarded a controversial pay out and re-hired as an Associate Chancellor at University of California, Berkeley by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Birgeneau is a fellow Canadian and old friend of Dynes at Bell Labsmarker. This event led President Mark Yudof to make changes to the buy out program.


  1. Statement from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau in response to British faculty union's proposed action against Israeli universities. 14 June 2007.
  2. SF Chronicle "Severance, new UC job for aide in pay scandal"
  3. California State Auditor Report 2006-103, May 2, 2006
  4. SF Examiner "Dynes example of larger problem"
  5. Sf Chronicle "UC Chief Changes Buyout Plan"
  6. San Diego Reader "After the Fall"

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