Fred Begay

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Fred Begay
Photo of Dr. Fred Begay distributed on the occasion of his election to the New York Academy of Sciences.
Born(1932-07-02)July 2, 1932
DiedApril 30, 2013(2013-04-30) (aged 80)
CitizenshipNavajo, Ute
Alma materUniversity of New Mexico (B.S, M.S., PhD)
SpouseHelen Smith
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear physics
ThesisDevelopment of the OSO-6 High-Energy Neutron Detector and Correlation of Measured Solar Neutron Fluxes to Solar Flares (1971)
Doctoral advisorC.P. Leavitt

Fred Begay (July 2, 1932 – April 30, 2013), also Fred Young or Clever Fox, was a Navajo/Ute nuclear physicist.[1] Begay was born in Towaoc, Colorado on the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation.[2] His work was in the alternative use of laser, electron and ion beams to heat thermonuclear plasmas for use as alternative energy sources.[2]

Early life[edit]

Begay suka was born in Towaoc, Colorado, on the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation.[2] He was the son of Joy Lopez (Navajo, Ute) and Hosteen Begay (Navajo). Fred Begay was only six when his mother and father, both Navajo healers, began teaching him the songs of the Blessingway ceremony.[3] Begay spoke both Indigenous languages from his mother and father but did not learn English until age 10, when he attended a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Ignacio, Colorado. The teachers there trained him to be a farmer until he turned 18.

Never graduating, he enlisted in the Army and went to fight in the Korean War. Fred served in the US Air Force during 1951-1955 and was assigned to an air-rescue squadron in Korea. In 1952, he married Helen Smith from Shiprock. When he came home in 1955, he returned to his mother's 30-acre farm with the intention of growing corn and raising children. Helen and Fred Begay had eight beautiful children: Fred Jr, Joyce, William, Janet, Terry, Christina, John and Carolyn.[4]

Science career[edit]

Begay attended the University of New Mexico (UNM), where he earned a bachelor's degree in math and science with honors in 1961.[5] He got master's degree in physics in 1963 and a doctorate in nuclear physics in 1971.[6] He joined the physics staff of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was also part of a NASA-funded space physics research team at UNM to conduct fundamental studies on the origin of high energy gamma rays and solar neutrons from 1960-1963 and again from 1965-1972.[7] He also held research and teaching fellowships at Stanford University and the University of Maryland.[8] Begay also had a tenure of nearly 30 years in the Los Alamos National Laboratory's laser program.[9]

Begay was profiled in the 1979 NOVA documentary The Long Walk of Fred Young.[10][11]


  1. ^ Fred Begay. Accessed 2011-08-15.
  2. ^ a b c Fred Begay. Council of Indian Nations. Accessed 2011-08-15.
  3. ^ "Ancient Observatories | Native American Connections | Biographies | Fred Begay". Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  4. ^ "Dr. Fred Begay's Obituary on Los Alamos Monitor". Los Alamos Monitor. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  5. ^ St. John, Jetty (1996). "Chapter 4 Fred Begay". Native American Scientists. Capstone Press Mankato. p. 25. ISBN 1-56065-359-0.
  6. ^ "Ancient Observatories | Native American Connections | Biographies | Fred Begay". Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  7. ^ "Dr. Fred Begay's Obituary on Los Alamos Monitor". Los Alamos Monitor. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  8. ^ "Fred Begay - Physicist Profile Detail Page". Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  9. ^ "Ancient Observatories | Native American Connections | Biographies | Fred Begay". Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  10. ^ American Indians on Film & Video: Documentaries in the Library of Congress. Accessed 2011-08-15.
  11. ^ "Dr. Fred Begay Obituary". LA Monitor. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2015.