[FPSPACE] Thomas Donahue, Expert on Exploration of the Planets,
Dies at 83
ljk4 at msn.com
Tue Oct 19 09:23:17 EDT 2004
Thomas Donahue, Expert on Exploration of the Planets, Dies at 83
October 19, 2004
By WARREN E. LEARY
Dr. Thomas M. Donahue, a pioneering space scientist whose
career went from studying Earth's stratosphere with early
rockets to probing the atmosphere of Jupiter with
spacecraft, died on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 83.
The cause was complications after heart surgery he had a
month earlier, according to an announcement from the
University of Michigan, where Dr. Donahue was a physicist
and retired planetary scientist.
An advocate of using satellites and spacecraft to study
Earth and other planets, Dr. Donahue was an experimenter or
participating scientist on missions sent to Venus, Jupiter
and Saturn, as well as investigations of the Moon and
Earth's atmosphere. He also served on numerous committees
and panels in Washington that helped guide the science
efforts of the National Aeronautics and Space
In his early work, Dr. Donahue studied cosmic rays from
space and the effects of radiation on elements in the
atmosphere of Earth and other planets. He headed the
science steering group of the two Pioneer missions to Venus
in the early 1970's, and was an experimenter on the
Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions to the outer planets.
He also was involved in studies of the destruction of the
protective ozone layer in Earth's stratosphere.
He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983
and served as chairman of the influential Space Science
Board of the academy's National Research Council from 1982
to 1988. From 1974 until 1980, he was chairman of the
department of atmospheric and oceanic science at the
University of Michigan.
"Tom Donahue understood the power of atmospheric chemistry
for understanding the evolution and the behavior of the
planets," said Dr. Lennard Fisk, a colleague and chairman
of the department Dr. Donahue once headed at Michigan. "He
was the foremost expert on the atmosphere and ionosphere of
Venus and the information they provide on this complex and
Dr. Donahue was born in Healdton, Okla., and grew up in
Kansas City, Mo., where he graduated from Rockhurst College
with degrees in classics and physics. He earned a Ph.D. in
atomic physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1947 after
service in the Army Signal Corps in World War II. He taught
and did research in atmospheric and atomic physics at the
University of Pittsburgh from 1951 until he went to
Michigan in 1974.
In addition to science, Dr. Donahue studied American, Irish
and French history and was fluent in several languages. He
also made extensive studies of the Irish history of his
family, which was from County Kerry.
He is survived by his wife, Esther McPherson Donahue, whom
he married in 1950; three sons, Brian, of Boston, Kevin, of
Berkeley, Calif., and Neil M., of Pittsburgh; six
grandchildren; and a brother and a sister.
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