Walter G. Egan, a scientist and engineer with a professional life spanning well over half a century, died on 3 November 2003.
Born to Caroline and George Egan on 12 October 1923 in New York City, Egan studied Electrical Engineering at the City College of New York from 1941 until 1943 when he was called to active duty in World War II, switching from enlisted reserve status. During the war, he served honorably in both the Signal Corps and the Medical Corps. Following his discharge in 1946, he resumed his college studies, obtaining a BEE in 1949 from City College of New York, an MA in Physics in 1951 from Columbia University, and a PhD in Solid State Physics in 1960 from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Egan's PhD thesis was "Ferromagnetic Resonance in thin Nickel Films," performed under advisor H. Juretschke.
Egan's professional career covered both industry and academia. In the summer of 1942, he worked for the Bruce Engineering Company. From 1957 to 1963, he worked for Ford Instrument Company, a Division of Sperry Rand Corporation, successively as an Engineering Project Supervisor, Assistant Director of Research, and Executive Assistant to the Director of Research. From 1964 to 1986 Egan worked as a Staff Scientist at the Grumman Corporation Corporate Research Center where his pioneering work consisted of research and development of remote sensing equipment and techniques for the remote sensing of terrestrial and space targets and backgrounds. I came to know and work with him during his tenure at the Grumman Corporation, where we co-authored many papers and a book. His insight into remote sensing engineering and research, shared willingly with younger colleagues, was a major stimulus to my future research in this field. Egan instilled a sense of discipline in publication, so our work could be shared with others in a timely way. This drive to share his knowledge with others also made him an excellent teacher. Subsequently, he held the position of Research Associate at the Mohonk Preserve, New Paltz, New York; Professor of Physics at York College, City University of New York; Research Professor of Physics at Polytechnic University, Brooklyn New York; and Professor of Earth Sciences at Adelphi University, Garden City, New York. Research was the focus of his professional life. At various points in his career Egan was a member of Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Eta Kappa Nu, Sigma Pi Sigma, the American Radio Relay League, the Research Society of America, the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the American Geophysical Union, the Optical Society of America, the American Meteorological Society, the Institute for Aerosol Research, and the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers.
A long and distinguished professional career was accompanied by more than two-hundred published works in the fields of Planetary Astronomy, Geophysics, Atmospheric Physics, Soils Physics, Materials Properties, Photometry, Polarization, Remote Sensing, Aerosols, Oceanography, and Optics. We co-wrote the book Optical Properties of Inhomogeneous Materials (Academic Press) in 1979. This was followed by Egan's two books on remote sensing: Photometry and Polarization in Remote Sensing (Elsevier) in 1985 and Optical Remote Sensing, Science and Technology (Marcel Dekker) in 2004. These books have become classical references in today's remote sensing courses. He brought clarity to this burgeoning field of research at a time when it was just developing.
Egan is survived by his wife, Joan K. Egan. He also leaves behind many younger colleagues, myself included, who considered him both a mentor and a friend.