Mel was born in Brooklyn in 1925 and attended the old Townsend Harris High School and the City College of New York, graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1944. A period of Army service followed, lasting until his discharge in 1946. He then enrolled under the GI Bill at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1950 with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. In October 1950, he joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where he spent his entire working career as a research staff member. He first worked in the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program for which he conducted measurements of the heat transfer-related physical properties of molten fuel salts and other materials at high temperatures. Starting in the 1950's, he was working in projects for the development of aqueous homogeneous reactors, molten salt reactors, and high temperature gas cooled reactors. He participated in developing new computer codes and numerical iterative techniques for performing finite-difference analogs of multigroup diffusion-theory neutronics calculations. As program needs changed, he worked in such fields as fuel cycle economics, analysis of tritium breeding that might be expected in fusion reactors, and obtaining and interpreting data from aerosol release experiments. The latter work, sponsored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was intended to provide an obervational basis for estimation of the consequences of releases from hypothetical nuclear reactor accidents. From 1975 to 1984 he worked as Associate Editor (under Editor-in-chief Dixon Callihan) of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the research journal of the American Nuclear Society. His last assignment, before he retired in 1993, was in the Safety Analysis Report Update Program for the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge.
During his 43 year career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mel witnessed the growth of computing technology, in the form of a room full of hot cathode ray tubes, with memory capacity thought of in 1 K quantities, to the present day, when mega-, giga-, and beyond are prefixed to all measures. Computers now commonly sit atop desks serving all sorts of workers in all sorts of tasks, whereas once, only an elite initiated few, using bits and bytes directly, were deemed sufficiently intelligent to use such arcane devices. Gradually, higher level languages began to be introduced. Mel still remembers one particular day when, after feeding his input data into one of those old computers from a punched paper tape, the lights on the cathode ray monitor screen flickered for a few seconds, and paper tape began suddenly streaming out of the machine. Here were the results that would have taken whole days to get by hand with slide rules, nomograms, noisy mechanical desk calculators, and heavy tomes of mathematical function tables. All those techniques, so long and carefully developed over decades, and making up a good chunk of the "know how" of engineers and scientists were suddenly obsolete. Even more important, high speed computers eventually made it possible to use numerical approaches, such as the Monte Carlo method, to analyze physical problems that were intractable by classical mathematical methods.
Mel and his wife Hedy live in Oak Ridge. They were married 53 years ago and have four children.