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Roy Garstang

Picture of Roy Garstang

Roy Garstang in his office. Photo courtesy of the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection.

Roy Henry Garstang, the renowned astrophysicist known primarily for his work on light pollution, was born in Southport, England in September of 1925. Following secondary school, Roy enrolled in Cambridge University, where he earned his bachelorís degree in 1946. After a brief stint as a Science Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and then at the Ministry of Works, he returned to Cambridge, where he received a PhD in mathematics in 1954. While working on his PhD, he served as a Research Associate at Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago, from 1951–1952.

After earning his PhD, Roy went to teach at the University of London, where he also served as the Assistant Director of the University of London Observatory. In 1964, he left England for the United States, where he joined the faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he would remain for the rest of his professional career.

Royís professional achievements were varied and profound. Fundamentally based in atomic physics and spectroscopy, his research was applied to astrophysics of the sun, stars, and planetary nebulae. In 1984, Roy began construction on a light pollution model, which helped to raise awareness of the factors contributing to light pollution and led efforts to reduce urban light pollution. His work on light pollution would become internationally recognized, and the subject became his primary research interest for the rest of his career.

During his prestigious career in research and academia, Roy was active in a number of professional organizations, including the British Astronomical Association (two-term Vice President), the American Physical Society (Fellow), the Optical Society of America (Fellow), the Royal Astronomical Society (Fellow), the Institute of Physics (Fellow), and others. He published more than 150 articles in scientific journals, and developed countless additional conference presentations, colloquia, and seminars.

Roy had a deep interest in the history of science. During his retirement he compiled materials for a history of the origin and development of JILA (Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics), an innovative institution where he was a Fellow since 1964, and served as Chairman in 1966–1967. He was a longtime Friend of the Center, and had donated generously since the mid 1980ís. When Roy passed away in November of 2009, he left the Center a bequest of $25,000, which as part of the Endowment will help fund the Centerís day-to-day activities, as well as develop and expand new initiatives. Roy is survived by his wife, Ann, and two daughters.

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