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In Memoriam

AGU and the Earth and space science community is comprised of more than 130,000 experts and science-engaged individuals from around the world. We want to provide you with a place to share and remember those in our community who have passed away. 

If you would like to add someone, please fill out our "In Memoriam" formAGU is posting only what is written and submitted via the form. 

2020

Belmiro M. Castro, PhD

  • Passed: 11 October 2020
  • Age:71
  • Cause: Cancer complications
  • Discipline/Focus/Section:Physical Oceanography
  • Institution/Organization: Oceanographic Institute, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam.
  • About: Belmiro M. Castro, a leading Brazilian coastal oceanographer, died on October 11 at the age of 71 from complications of cancer. He was a Professor at the Oceanographic Institute of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in Brazil. Professor Castro began his long career in physical oceanography as an intern at the Oceanographic Institute in 1970, while he was an undergraduate student in Physics at USP. He completed a master's in Physical Oceanography at USP in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami in 1985. He then returned to his alma mater and raised through the ranks, eventually becoming USP's longest-serving active Full Professor of Oceanography. Castro's research targeted the coastal ocean, with a regional focus on the Brazilian continental shelf. He contributed fundamental understanding of the low-frequency, synoptic and tidal circulation and dynamics of the Sao Paulo continental shelf and the tidal circulation of the Amazon continental shelf. His review of the Physical Oceanography of Brazilian Continental Shelf, published in The Sea, and his book on estuary physics with L.B. Miranda and B. Kjerfve––recently translated into English––are two of his most influential contributions. Castro spearheaded several national observational experiments and took part in international collaborations to further advance oceanographic knowledge in the region. He was a visiting scientist at the University of Miami and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Castro was also a dedicated member of his home institution. He served as director of USP's Oceanographic Institute from 2001 through 2004 and as Chair of the Department of Physical, Chemical, and Geological Oceanography for multiple tenures. Among all his important academic contributions, teaching was the one he valued most. He frequently reminded colleagues, junior and senior, that teaching is the noblest duty of University professors. At USP, Castro developed and taught fundamental and applied classes in Ocean Dynamics. While he was an observational scientist at heart, his command of theoretical physical oceanography was wide and deep. He taught for 35 years an 8-credit (roughly 6 hours per week) foundational graduate class in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, the most important course in USP's Physical Oceanography Program. Many of USP's Physical Oceanography students, spanning several generations, refer to Castro as the best instructors they ever had. His lectures were formal but memorable. His explanations were clear and precise. His notes were thorough and organized. His board work was neat. Early in his career, Castro developed an unwavering commitment to educating the next generation of Brazilian oceanographers. It's fair to say that the Brazilian Physical Oceanography community owes him its solid foundation. His sense of duty and dedication to teaching never faded away. He taught even in his busiest administrative years. And he taught through illness, until a week before his passing. Castro's academic contributions will live on through influential oceanographic studies and through over 40 students that he advised and hundreds more who learned Geophysical Fluid Dynamics and Physical Oceanography from him. The Brazilian Oceanographic community is much smaller without him.

Sir John Houghton, PhD

  • Passed: 15 April 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause: Complications from COVID-19
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Global climate change; science policy
  • Institution/Organization: Oxford University, UK Meteorological Office and U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam.
  • About: Dr. Houghton was among the most influential early leaders of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up in 1988 to advise policymakers on the science of global climate change. He was the chief editor of the IPCC’s first three reports and chaired or co-chaired the panel’s scientific assessment committee as well. In 2007, Dr. Houghton was among the IPCC scientists who collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on behalf of the organization, which shared the award that year with former vice president Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

L. Douglas (Doug) James

  • Passed: 2 April 2020
  • Cause: COVID-19
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Hydrology
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam.
  • About: In 1992, Doug James became the founding director for the newly launched Hydrologic Sciences Program t the U.S. National Science Foundation. Over the 18 years that he oversaw the program, he grew it into the successful program we know today. He was a tremendous force in hydrology, championing many of the causes and programs that led to major advances of our science and how we do our science. His leadership, generosity and humanity will be greatly missed by all who knew him. For those that did not know him personally, know that many of the programs and advances in hydrologic sciences that we benefit from today were started or profoundly influenced by his leadership. Sadly, his passing will likely not be the first, nor will it be the last through this pandemic. We will remember Doug James and all those whose lives have been cut short by this virus in our hearts and, when we come out of the other side of this, we will celebrate their lives and their accomplishments together.

Donald Kennedy, PhD

  • Passed: 21 April 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause: COVID-19
  • Discipline/Focus/Section:Near Surface Geophysics and Electromagnetism
  • Institution/Organization:U.S. Geological Survey
  • Thoughts and Tributes: In Memoriam. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Stanford Hillel, Haas Center for Public Service or the Robin and Donald Kennedy Fund for Jewish Studies.
  • About: Dr. Kennedy spoke at several AGU meetings. He was in the Earth and Environment Science Department at Stanford University and encouraged professional development in the Earth and space science community. One of his favorite editorials was "POTUS and the Fish."

Donald Kennedy, PhD

Victor Labson, PhD

  • Passed: 1 November 2020
  • Age: 68
  • Cause:--
  • Discipline/Focus/Section:Near Surface Geophysics and Electromagnetism
  • Institution/Organization:U.S. Geological Survey
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In recognition of his passion for mentoring scientists, the family requests, in lieu of flowers, that donations be given to Advancing Science in America (ARCS) or the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Near Surface Geophysics Section Fund in memory of Dr. Victor Labson. Gifts made to AGU will support women scientists traveling to present their scientific work at the 2021 AGU Fall Meeting. Gifts can be made by visiting its website or through the mail: American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Ave NW, Washington DC 20009. Please note that your gift is for the Near Surface Geophysics Section Fund and in tribute to Victor Labson when making your gift online or by mail.
  • About:Victor Franklin Labson, 68, of Lakewood, Colorado and Reston, Virginia, died in his Lakewood home on November 1, 2020. He was born in Washington, D.C. to Arnold and Dorothy (née Deskin) Labson, and relocated with his family to San Francisco, California, during his high school years. While still pursuing his Ph.D. in Engineering Geosciences from the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1977, relocating to the Denver, Colorado office in 1985. A voracious reader and a man whose humility belied a probing intellect, he devoted his life to civil service in the name of science and was recognized for his collaborative approach and global vision. Vic will be remembered for his thoughtfulness, a wry sense of humor, his devotion to his family, and his dedication to fostering the careers of many colleagues at the USGS and around the world. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Rebecka Snell Labson, and his children, Eva Labson and husband Kevin Blum; and Daniel Labson and wife Linsey Labson. Vic’s career at the USGS spanned 43 years. In the first half of his career, he made great contributions first as a research scientist and subsequently as a science manager of a USGS research group that develops and applies geophysical techniques to map variations in the magnetic and electromagnetic properties of the Earth’s crust. He provided scientific expertise on globally important issues such as geologic hazards, water, energy, mineral resources, and the environment. As a science manager, Vic also fostered innovative, interdisciplinary collaboration among diverse groups of scientists. In his last role at the USGS, Vic served as the Director of International Programs in Reston, Virginia. In that capacity, he was the Survey’s principal advisor regarding international activities and scientific cooperation on a broad range of natural resource and natural hazard science projects. Vic’s leadership in this area greatly enhanced the scientific contributions of the USGS globally, and positively influenced the innovation of geological surveys worldwide. As stated in the condolences offered by his colleague Danielle Lebel, Director General of the Canadian Geological Survey “he was the quintessence and personification of soft science diplomacy.” Recently, Vic was the driving force behind a tri-lateral Canada-US-Australia collaborative research project on critical minerals and served on the Steering Committee of the new venture aimed at creating a world community of geological survey organizations. In summary, as stated by Karen Senhadji, Director, Office of International Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior: “Vic was passionate about the international mission of USGS, and an effective leader who navigated complex intra-agency and inter-agency challenges with patience, persistence, kindness and an excellent sense of humor”

Robert (Bob) Malone, PhD

  • Passed: September 2020
  • Age: 70s
  • Cause: Parkinson's Disease
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Climate
  • Institution/Organization: Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate to a climate change organization of your choosing.
  • About: Robert (Bob) Malone passed away in September, after 30 years of living with Parkinson’s Disease. He is best known as the progenitor of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) efforts to develop and use ocean and sea ice models for climate science. Bob came to LANL in 1973 with a freshly minted Cornell PhD in astrophysics, to work on inertial confinement fusion. Bob’s interest in climate met with a first opportunity late in the decade, contributing to NCAR’s development of CCM0 (now the Community Atmosphere Model), spending summers from 1979 to 1983 in Boulder. In the 1980s he used that model at LANL to study nuclear winter and to identify the self-lofting effect of the fire-produced smoke. Sometimes referred to as the Malone Effect, this phenomenon has since been verified by many observations of large fire smoke plumes. A crucial opportunity arose in 1990 when the Department of Energy initiated a program in Computer Hardware, Advanced Mathematics and Model Physics (CHAMMP), and asked Bob to lead model development. Bob proved to be exceptionally good at assessing strategic opportunities, understanding where an outsized contribution might be made to the field. He realized that LANL’s capabilities in computational fluid dynamics and parallel computing made ocean modeling a good fit for the Lab. Initial effort at LANL focused on rewriting the original Bryan-Cox-Semtner ocean model for massively parallel computers and overcoming its major limitation, a streamfunction formulation that greatly limited the number of islands able to be included in the model. The problem was solved by John Dukowicz and Rick Smith, who initially comprised Bob’s team, by introducing a surface pressure formulation, now used by all ocean models. The unique capability to run on massively parallel computers meant that for several years, Bob’s team at LANL produced groundbreaking simulations with the Parallel Ocean Program (POP), capturing the path of the Gulf Stream realistically for the first time. Bob also saw and pursued a strategic opportunity to apply the LANL team’s expertise to sea ice modeling. Elizabeth Hunke, then a postdoc working with John Dukowicz, introduced an elastic-viscous-plastic rheology in what became known as the CICE sea ice model. Both CICE and POP were adopted first by DOE’s Parallel Climate Model and then the Community Climate System Model (now CESM), resulting in prominent contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The CICE model was eventually adopted worldwide by most climate centers. While good strategic thinking is often found behind the successful establishment of a science team, Bob was also an exceptionally warm, gentle leader who always was able to draw the best from his team and others at LANL. We who worked with and were mentored by Bob know we have been very fortunate, and are thankful for the impact he had on our lives and science. Bob is survived by his beloved wife and step-daughter.

Donald R. Nielsen, PhD

  • Passed: 24 July 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause: Complications from surgery
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Hydrology and Soil Physics
  • Institution/Organization: University of California, Davis
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam – Donald R. Nielsen
  • About: Dr. Don Nielsen was a pioneer and leader in the recognition of the linkages between agronomy and the hydrologic and environmental sciences beginning in the 1970’s. His work on solute transport in unsaturated soils and on the role of soil heterogeneity on infiltration and contaminant transport helped launch a revolution in hydrologic thinking. He received his doctorate in soil physics at Iowa State University and spent his career at the University of California, Davis where, in addition to advising graduate students and international visitors, he helped develop graduate degrees in hydrology and earth sciences. He served the University as chair of both the Department of Land, Air and Water as well as Agronomy and Range Science as well as Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. His service to our profession was profound, serving as AGU Hydrology Section President, American Society of Agronomy President, Soil Science Society of America President and editor of AGU’s Water Resources Research. As a scientist, Don was honored by many awards including AGU Fellow, the Don and Betty Kirkham International Soil Physics Medal and the AGU Horton Medal for “his fundamental work in hydrology, combined with his uncanny love of the profession”. Don’s support for early career and international scientists, along with his passion for science and the human spirit will be greatly missed in the future. To not hear his booming voice and his words of encouragement is a loss for all but also a lesson to each of us to carry on his values towards science, education and humanity.

Chalmers Sechrist, PhD, MS, BE

  • Passed: 29 October 2020
  • Age:90
  • Cause:Cancer
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Aeronomy
  • Institution/Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Philanthropy Fund at Cypress Cove, 10200 Cypress Cove Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33908. Memo: In memory of Chalmers Sechrist.
  • About: On October 29, the Aeronomy and AGU community lost a true gentleman-scientist when Dr. Chalmers Sechrist passed away in Fort Myers, Florida, at the age of 90. His wife of 62 years had passed away previously this year on January 14. He is survived by his son, Jonathan and wife Nancy, and daughter Jennifer Sechrist Mai and her husband Phillip Mai. Chalmers graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with the B.E. degree in electrical engineering. At the Pennsylvania State University, he received the M.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1954, and the PhD degree in electrical engineering in January 1959. From 1959 to 1965 he was a Staff Engineer in the Research Department of HRB-Singer, Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. From 1965 to 1992 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, he rose from Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering to Professor of ECE, Associate Head of the ECE Department, and Assistant Dean of Engineering where he assisted with the creation of student exchange programs with universities including Japan, China, and Russia. His research in the Aeronomy Laboratory was involved with the lower ionospheric D region and he supervised graduate students who investigated the winter anomaly, seasonal and diurnal variations in the electron concentration vs. altitude, based on rocket measurements and computer models of the ion and neutral chemistry. Between 1992 and 1996 while on a Leave of Absence he served as a Program Manager in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C. In 1996 he retired from the UIUC and moved to Fort Myers, Florida where he joined in 1998 the new Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) as an Adjunct Professor of Engineering. He created and taught several courses in engineering and technology. In 2005 he was appointed to the Advisory Board and assisted with the formation of the School of Engineering. Chalmers’ interests were photography, amateur radio, golf, tennis, sail and power boating, and volunteering. In his “retirement,” he gave talks on various subjects, including global warming and climate change, fixing systems that should be upgraded and updated, and what the Boomers plan to do in their retirement years. Chalmers was a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and was a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). Chalmers will be missed by his family, his students, his professional colleagues, as well as all with whom he came into contact during his long and productive life.

Valerian Tatarskii, PhD

  • Passed: 19 April 2020
  • Age:90
  • Cause:--
  • Discipline/Focus/Section: Corresponding Member, Russian Academy of Sciences, USSR State Prize, Max Born Award (OSA), US Nat'l Academy of Engineering, PhD, Moscow State University. Propagation of sound and light waves in a turbulent medium.
  • Institution/Organization: Institute of Physics, Russian Academy fo Sciences, NOAA Wave Propogation Laboratory (Boulder)
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam.

Daniel Weill, PhD

  • Passed: 3 October 2020
  • Age: 88
  • Cause:--
  • Discipline/Focus/Section:Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Institution/Organization:University of Oregon (retired)
  • Thoughts & Tributes: In Memoriam.
  • About: Daniel Weill graduated with a Ph. D. from Berkeley followed by a distinguished research and academic career at the University of California San Diego and University of Oregon. He then initiated a career as a science administrator with a sabbatical at Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Department of Energy (1983/84) and later joined NSF (1985-2001) as Director of the new Instrumentation and Facilities Program. Dan’s confidence, respect and trust in the wishes and advice of the research community provided the intellectual base for his vision of the revolutionary changes needed to advance Earth science research. During his years at NSF, Dan Weill played a major role in improving the availability of advanced instrumentation to the Earth science community, which led to significant progress in modern geophysics and geochemistry research. His adage that discoveries lead to the next generation of questions, combined with his ability to recognize fundamentally promising research directions, motivated him to help establish new geophysical and geochemical facilities essential to propel the earth sciences into a modern era. The comprehensive scope of the expanded capabilities has revolutionized our understanding of Earth. He nourished the fledgling facilities for seismology (IRIS) and geodesy (UNAVCO). His stable support and encouragement provided the security that enabled long-term planning and rational development for the programs to become global leaders in high quality seismological and geodetic research. The requirement for the facilities to provide open access and distribution of archived data became the foundation for the democratization of research that allowed the integrated studies exemplified by EARTHSCOPE to flourish. Results contribute to a much improved understanding for the processes controlling the dynamics and evolution of continents. In the area of Geochemistry Dan supported a number of “national laboratories” that included ion microprobes, accelerator mass spectrometers and synchrotrons that fostered a wide array of new discoveries in the Earth sciences. As a result, geologists are better able to quantify such wide-ranging questions as the nature and timing of Earth’s changing environment over the last 4 billion years ago, the rate of mountain uplift and erosion, changes in ocean circulation patterns, and the response of Earth to the rise in atmospheric oxygen 2 billion years ago. Dan’s skill in working with colleagues in sister science agencies has expanded opportunities for mineral and rock physics research These include the DOE synchrotron X-ray facilities at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Advanced Radiation Source at Argonne National Laboratory, which have enabled unrivaled technical advances. For the first time, using diamond-anvil cells and multi-anvil presses, the ultra-high intensity X-ray beams allowed diffraction patterns to be taken every few seconds of samples under high pressures and temperatures. The new observations have led to a revolution in our understanding of the dynamics controlling the chemical and physical properties of materials. For his remarkable and distinctive service to the Earth science community as a program administrator at DOE and NSF, Dan Weill received AGU’s, 2002 Edward A. Flinn III Award.

Last updated: 25 Nov 2020 1:34 pm ET