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Terrence James Deeming (1937–1992)

Published onSep 01, 1992
Terrence James Deeming (1937–1992)

Terence James Deeming was born in Birmingham, England on April 25, 1937. He was awarded a B.Sc. in physics by Birmingham University and then went to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he received his Ph.D. in 1961. This was for work at the Cambridge Observatories under the supervision of R.O. Redman on the absolute magnitude effect in stars on the intensities of the Mg b spectral lines. In 1959-60 he was sent with a British government grant to the Radcliffe Observatory at Pretoria, South Africa, directed by A.D. Thackeray. There, he worked on the properties of sub-dwarf stars of types F and G. He spent the years 1961 and 1962 back at Cambridge as an assistant at the Observatories.

In 1962 he came to the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin as a visiting lecturer. The Department had been formed in 1958, originally as a joint venture with the University of Chicago, with the late Frank N. Edmonds as associate professor, the first Texas faculty member. This arrangement did not work, and the Texas department became independent under the chairmanship of Harold Johnson in September 1961. Gerard de Vaucouleurs was appointed associate professor in October 1960. In 1962 the Universities of Texas and Chicago concluded a new agreement on the control of McDonald Observatory, giving the former essential control, and, in 1963, Harlan Smith became the first Texas director of the Observatory. Terry was thus one of the very first half dozen individuals who launched the Austin department with control over McDonald. He was appointed assistant professor in 1964 and promoted associate professor in 1967, retaining this rank until 1977. During the summer of 1974 he was a social scientist research associate.

At a meeting in Sweden Terry told me of the diaries of Sir John Herschel including the years 1834-38 which had been deposited at the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, and as a result I spent a year in Austin, during which he, my wife, Stephen Goldfarb and myself produced an historical volume, Herschel at the Cape, published by The University of Texas Press in 1969, which was very favorably received by the critics.

Terry's interests began to concentrate more and more on the statistical analysis of data, covering such topics as component analysis of spectral classification, period finding of scattered data sets such as observations of variable stars and spectroscopic binary radial velocities, linear correlations, Fourier analysis of unequally spaced data, and the occurrence of spurious periodicity in stochastically varying quantities. In 1966 he spent a summer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory at Victoria, British Columbia. In 1975 he took leave to write a book on statistics, which was apparently never published, though he did leave a long typescript for the guidance of Austin students. Over the course of several years he worked on the production of a very successful textbook on Astrophysics, published in 1984 in two volumes jointly with Richard L. Bowers.

In November 1977 Terry joined the Digicon Geophysical Corporation in Houston, Texas, an oil-industry service organization and remained there until September 1989, except for a brief period when he attempted to found his own organiz Research and Development in 1987. He then moved to a similar organization, the Geophysical Development Corporation, until his death on May 14, 1992.

He was a member of the International Astronomical Union, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the American Astronomical Society, of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Society of Experimental Geophysicists and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He was an individual of great abilities and wide culture, an executant at concert standard both on the piano and strings, and came to be widely esteemed in his industrial activities. He was an only son, both of whose parents pre-deceased him, and left him entirely bereft of any relatives. He died after a number of attacks of debilitating illnesses.

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