13 July 2011

In Memoriam: Tom Gehrels, 1925-2011


In Memoriam: Tom Gehrels, 1925-2011

Professor Tom Gehrels joined the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
(LPL) in 1961 as an Associate Professor. He earned his B.S. in Physics
and Astronomy from Leiden (Netherlands) University in 1951, and his
Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago in 1956.

While at Chicago, he worked with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Gerard
P. Kuiper (who founded LPL in 1960). Dr. Gehrels' distinguished science
career featured many highlights. During the 1950s, Professor Gehrels
pioneered the first photometric system of asteroids and discovered the
opposition effect in the brightness of asteroids. In the 1960s, he
pioneered wavelength dependence of polarization of stars and planets.
His research interests then migrated to imaging photopolarimetry of
Jupiter and Saturn, and Dr. Gehrels was named principal investigator for
the Pioneer 10 and 11 Imaging Photopolarimeters, which discovered
Saturn's F ring.

In 1980, Tom Gehrels founded the Spacewatch Project, which uses
telescopes on Kitt Peak to survey the sky for dangerous asteroids; he
led the project until 1997. Professor Gehrels also founded the well
known and well respected Space Science Series, still published by the
University of Arizona Press. He served as general editor for the first
30 volumes of the series. At its start in the 1980s, the Space Science
Series represented a new way of producing research textbooks. In 2007,
Tom Gehrels was the recipient of the Harold Masursky Award, presented by
the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in
recognition of meritorious service to planetary science.

Professor Gehrels' recent research interests were in universal
evolution. Each fall, he taught an undergraduate course for non-science
majors at the University of Arizona and each spring, he presented a
brief version of that course at the Physical Research Laboratory in
Ahmedabad, India, where he was a lifetime Fellow.

More about Dr. Gehrels < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Gehrels>