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Sidney N. Stone (1922–2011)

Stone was a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who conducted defense related research such as the ionospheric effects of rocket exhaust and optical diagnostic systems for laser-produced shock waves.

Published onDec 31, 2022
Sidney N. Stone (1922–2011)

Sidney N. Stone died surrounded by his family on Saturday July 9, 2011, at the age of 89.

Sidney N. Stone was born on May 11, 1922, in Syracuse, New York to H. William and Janet (Jennie Bloom) Stone. He spent his youth in Rochester, New York and later the family moved to Mount Vernon, New York where he graduated from high school. Sidney developed an interest in astronomy early on. When he was just 11 years old he built his first telescope and learned how to grind his own mirrors with the help of an optometrist friend of the family.

After graduation from high school, Sidney went to Caltech to study Astrophysics. There, he became friends with, and was mentored by, the well-known astronomer Edwin P. Hubble who was instrumental in getting him posted to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland during World War II so he could continue his scientific studies. He was a Technology Sargent for the U.S. Army Ordinance from 1943–6.

After the war was over, Sidney attended University of California at Berkeley to earn both his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astrophysics. While at UC Berkeley, he met and married Marcia Jeanette McClain who was also attending UC Berkeley earning a degree in Nutrition. They were married in September 1951.

Sidney’s first job after graduating from UC Berkeley was working at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California. In 1957, he was offered a position at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He spent most of his career at Los Alamos, and was active in many astronomical and weapons related projects which took him to traveling around the globe as well as spending time at Johnston Island in the South Pacific, Point Barrow, Alaska, White Sands Missile Range and Nevada test site during the Cold War era. During the 1980s, he published several papers on the ionospheric effects of rocket exhaust and optical diagnostic systems for laser-produced shock waves. One of Sidney’s last projects before his retirement was lost aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

While living in Los Alamos, he and Marcia became charter members of the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos. From the time they moved to Los Alamos, Sidney was very active in international folk dancing, a regular season pass holder at Pajarito Ski area and played tournament singles tennis, earning him the title of #1 Men’s Singles aged 50–55 group in the Southwest.

Sidney retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1985 and remained a consultant there for several years. He and Marcia moved to Albuquerque in 1990, and became active in many organizations such as Oasis, Friendly Philosophers, Humanist Society of New Mexico, Rio Grande Jazz Society, Albuquerque Little Theatre, New Mexicans for Science & Reason and the Albuquerque Astronomical Society. They were both honored as Humanists of the Year in New Mexico in 1995. Sidney and Marcia also enjoyed traveling around the world until her death in June 2009, after 58 years of marriage.

Sidney was a member of the American Astronomical Society (emeritus), Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security (director 1982–9), Albuquerque Astronomical Society, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, Sigma Xi and several other organizations. He is listed as a noteworthy astrophysicist, consultant and researcher by Marquis Who’s Who.

Sidney suffered a severe stroke June 27, 2011, while attending his granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah in San Carlos, California. He passed away with his family surrounding him on July 9, 2011. He is survived by his two daughters, Susan Stone and her husband, Jeffery Mather, of Savusavu, Fiji Islands and his younger daughter Wendy Shray, her husband, Steve, and their two children, Aaron and Julia, his only grandchildren. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

Other Obituaries for Sidney Stone

Adapted with permission from the Humanist Society of New Mexico Newsletter, Oct. 2011 with additional material provided by Terry D. Oswalt.

See also Stone’s AstroGen entry.

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