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Walter F. Huebner (1928–2021)

Huebner was a well-known astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and at Southwest Research Institute whose research focused on comets and asteroids.

Published onOct 03, 2022
Walter F. Huebner (1928–2021)

Photo credit: Los Alamos Daily Post.

Walter F. Huebner, renowned astrophysicist and lifelong traveler, passed away peacefully at his home in Norman, Oklahoma, on Tuesday June 1, 2021, at the age of 93, surrounded by his family.

Walter Huebner was born in New York City, February 22, 1928, to Margaretha (Koch) and Richard Huebner. Walter spent his childhood in Franzendorf near Reichenberg in what was then the Czech Republic. In 1947, at the age of 19, he emigrated back to the United States. He enrolled in Dobbs Ferry High School and continued on to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute where he developed his passion for physics. Walter went on to Yale University where he received his Ph.D. in Physics.

At Yale, he worked with a well-known physicist, Professor Gregory Breit, who arranged for him to work at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (later known as Los Alamos National Laboratory). He worked at Los Alamos from 1957 to 1987 in various capacities from staff scientist to group leader. In 1987, he moved to San Antonio, Texas, and worked at Southwest Research Institute as an institute scientist until 2018.

While Walter was at Yale, he met Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Putnam, the love of his life, and wife of 64 years. Walter and Betty shared four children, whom they raised primarily in Los Alamos.

While Walter worked tirelessly as a well-known astrophysicist at the Los Alamos Lab and at Southwest Research Institute, he was President of the Permanent Monitoring Panel for Cosmic Objects at the International Seminars on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies, as well as a visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at NASA, and at the Max Planck Institute. He had a Fulbright Fellowship and was a participant in Operation Dominic at Christmas Island.

He published over 100 scientific papers and edited multiple books on comets and asteroids. His efforts and research are considered great accomplishments to both the scientific community and his family.

Walter was known not only for his invaluable scientific work, but also for his kind, gentle and generous nature. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was loved by all who knew him.

Walter is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Huebner; his children, Anne Rice and her husband Tom Edwards, Pieter Huebner and his wife Sheila, Elisabeth ‘Lisa’ Huebner, and Richard Huebner and his wife Robin; his grandchildren, Silvio, Kristen, Emil, Justin and Petra; and one great grandchild, Carter.

Adapted from the original obituary in the Los Alamos Daily Post with permission of the author.

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