Dr. Barry J. LaBonte, age 55, a senior solar physicist in the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, died on 24 October 2005 in Philadelphia of complications following surgery. He was an internationally recognized expert on solar magnetic fields, the solar cycle, and on the sophisticated instruments needed for studying them.
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Alexander (Andy) Franz Lubenow, Program Coordinator at the Space Telescope Science Institute, was diagnosed with cancer of the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver in May 2005 and died on 29 September 2005. He was forty-nine.
Cornell (Connie) H. Mayer, a pioneer of radio astronomy, died on 19 November 2005 of congestive heart failure at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia. He was eighty-three.
John Perdrix, astronomical historian and co-founder of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, died on 27 June 2005.
John Louis Perdrix was born in Adelaide, Australia, on 30 June 1926. After studying chemistry at Melbourne Technical College and working in industry, he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Division of Minerals and Geochemistry. In 1974 the Division relocated to the Western Australian capital, Perth, and John spent the rest of his working life there involved in geochemical research.
A. Keith Pierce was a solar astronomer who will be remembered for bringing the physics lab to the telescope and for his design of the world's largest solar telescope, the 1.5-meter McMath Telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, he died of cancer in Tucson on 11 March 2005. He was eighty-six.
His father, Tracy Pierce, had gone to graduate school in Berkeley, California, with a major in mathematics and a minor in astronomy. Fellow students of his class included Seth Nicholson and Donald Shane, people who were later to influence young Keith's life.
Ronald C. Stone, an astronomer at the US Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, passed away on 10 September 2005 in Downer's Grove, IL, following a valiant struggle with cancer. He was fifty-nine years old.
James Alfred Van Allen, world-renowned space scientist, died 9 August 2006 at the age of ninety-one. He succumbed to heart failure after a ten-week period of declining health.
George W. Wetherill, 1997 National Medal of Science recipient, died from heart failure on 19 July 2006, at his Washington, DC home. Wetherill can be rightfully called the father of modern theories of the formation of the Earth. Prior to the first Protostars and Planets meeting in Tucson in 1978, planet formation theories tended to be eccentric concoctions created by distinguished senior scientists who had earned the right to dream a little bit about how our Solar System had formed. Wetherill was in the vanguard of the effort to place planet formation theory on a solid basis.
The orbital debris, space surveillance, and astronomical communities lost a valued and beloved friend when John L. Africano passed away on July 27, 2006, at the young age of 55. John passed away in Honolulu, Hawaii, from complications following a heart attack suffered while playing racquetball, which was his avocation in life. Born on February 8, 1951, in Saint Louis, Missouri, John graduated with a B.S. in Physics from the University of Missouri at Saint Louis in 1973, and received a Master's degree in Astronomy from Vanderbilt University in 1974.
Ralph Asher Alpher, noted cosmologist, physicist, and educator, died on August 12, 2007, in Austin, Texas. Alpher developed the first model for primordial nucleosynthesis in the hot early Universe and, with Robert Herman, first predicted the cosmic microwave background radiation. During his long and productive career, he published over one-hundred papers, a book translation, chapters in a number of books (primarily in cosmology), and The Genesis of the Big Bang, a book about his life in cosmology, co-authored with Robert Herman.
John Norris Bahcall, one of the most creative and influential astrophysicists of his generation — a scientist who helped prove what makes the Sun shine and helped make the Hubble Space Telescope a reality — passed away in Pasadena, California, on 17 August 2005. Bahcall died peacefully in his sleep from a rare blood disorder. For the past 35 years, Bahcall was the Richard Black Professor of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he created one of the leading astrophysics programs in the world.
Paul Barr, an extragalactic astronomer and spacecraft mission planner, died on 19 October 2005 at his home in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, at the age of 50. Although his scientific interests ranged from AGN to X-ray binaries, he will perhaps best be remembered for his mission planning skills on EXOSAT, ISO, and Integral. Many hundreds of observers have benefited from his ability to juggle seemingly impossible observing constraints and arrive at the optimum observing program. A rare talent.
One of the unquestioned giants of physics and astrophysics, Hans Bethe, died on 6 March 2005, at the venerable age of 98, in his home town of Ithaca, New York. Seven decades of contributing to research and a Nobel Prize for his work on stellar hydrogen burning make a listing of his honors superfluous (besides being impossible in this space).
Dr. Richard B. Dunn, astronomer emeritus at the National Solar Observatory, died of a heart attack on September 29, 2005. He was recognized as one of the foremost experimental solar physicists. His innovative designs for telescopes and instruments led to many important discoveries in solar physics.
Renowned astronomer and astronomy popularizer Kenneth L. Franklin died early Monday morning, June 18, 2007, in Boulder, Colorado, two weeks after undergoing heart surgery. He was 84 years old.
Cornell University Emeritus Professor of Physics, Kenneth I. Greisen, died on March 17, 2007 of cancer at the Hospicare residence in Ithaca, New York. He was 89 years old. Prof. Greisen was well-known for his participation in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and for his many contributions to the study of cosmic ray physics. More quietly, Prof. Greisen also made significant contributions to the teaching of Physics at the high school and university levels. He was of service to the Cornell and Ithaca communities in many ways both during his university career and after his retirement.
Dr. Herbert Gursky, Acting Associate Director of Research for the Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Systems Directorate, and formerly Superintendent of the Space Science Division and Chief Scientist of the E. O. Hulburt Center for Space Research. Dr. Gursky died following a long illness on late Friday afternoon, December 1, 2006. Dr. Gursky was a great friend, valued colleague, and distinguished researcher who will be missed greatly.
Tor Hagfors, a world leader in the use of radar techniques to observe ionospheres, surfaces and interiors of planetary bodies, died of heart-failure on 17 January 2007, in Puerto Rico, at the age of 76. He was born on 8 December 1930, in Oslo, Norway, and received his education there and in Trondheim, where he graduated with exceptionally good grades with a degree in technical physics from the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) in 1955.
Cosmologist Edward R. (Ted) Harrison, emeritus Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, died on 29 January 2007 in his retirement city of Tucson, Arizona, where he was adjunct professor at the Steward Observatory, University of Arizona. The cause of death was colon cancer. He is survived by a sister, brother, and daughter. (A son died in 2000.)
Longtime Harvard Curator of Astronomical Photographs and AAVSO officer Martha Hazen passed away on 23 December 2006 at Hingham, Massachusetts, after a short illness due to acute myelogenous leukemia.