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Gary B. Hansen (1953–2013)

Published onDec 01, 2013
Gary B. Hansen (1953–2013)

I have been informed that Dr. Gary B. Hansen passed away late Thursday evening, September 26, from complications of ALS. He died while sitting at his computer, working on some science or technical issue. This was a highly appropriate setting for Gary. Gary was a hard working and very dedicated scientist who contributed to a number of parts of the Planetary Sciences. He loved the work and the science. Working, I am sure, is where he wanted to be ("with his boots on," so to speak).

Gary B. Hansen was born 12 July 1953 in Denver Colorado. He earned a BS in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology, 1975, an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1986, and a Ph.D. in Geophysics, 1996, both from the University of Washington. He held a variety of positions throughout his career, starting as an engineer for CBS television in Los Angeles 1976-79, then at the jet Propulsion laboratory, Pasadena CA (Asst. cognizant engineer for the Galileo spacecraft flight computer). At JPL he also performed considerable laboratory work on the properties of CO2 ice, which eventually supported his Ph.D., dissertation. In 1996, he came to work with me at the University of Hawaii as a researcher in my Division of Planetary Geosciences and worked closely with me and my graduate students for six years before I retired from the University and set up my own Institute near Winthrop, Washington. Gary moved to the University of Washington, became a Research Faculty there, but we continued to work on joint projects.

Gary had a long connection with and loved Seattle, and he participated in its music and sports scenes as well as his research. He owned a house there even when he worked at the University of Hawaii. The University of Washington was the natural place for him to be associated and the Department of Earth and Space Science (ESS) found a way to enable this. He felt comfortable there and contributed to several parts of the Department and its research effort, in addition to working on his and our planetary science projects. As his health failed, the ESS provided what assistance and support they could to enable his participation until the end. For this I am sure Gary, as well as those of us who knew Gary, were very appreciative.

Gary’s specialty became radiative transfer, especially in multi scattering media, such as CO2 and H2O ices. This was essential to the study of the outer solar system satellites. When Gary came to work with me in 1996, we were just beginning the observational phase of the Galileo mission and its infrared spectrometer, NIMS. As the spectra rolled in, we had a feast, and we made several important discoveries. This would not have happened without Gary’s deep understanding of the physics behind the signals the spectrometer was receiving. Further, Gary was a wizard at developing calibrations and corrections for this finicky instrument and its idiosyncrasies, and he worked long, hard hours developing credibility for the NIMS data (and later for the VIMS data too).

Gary was an essential component to the growth and development of several graduate students and post doctoral fellows, several of whom are professional scientists in their own right today. They too, I am sure, will join in recognizing our appreciation for Gary’s contributions and his friendship.


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