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Alfred E. Glassgold
In Memoriam

Alfred E. Glassgold

Adjunct Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus

UC Berkeley
Alfred E. Glassgold, adjunct professor of astronomy, emeritus, died at his home in San Francisco on January 4, 2019.

Al was born on July 20, 1929, in Philadelphia. He obtained his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Pennsylvania and his Ph.D. in physics under the supervision of Victor Weiskopf at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954. He was a research scientist at the Radiation Laboratory and a lecturer in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1957 to 1963. During that time he worked on problems in statistical mechanics and nuclear physics, and he taught several physics courses with Edward Teller. He joined the physics faculty at New York University (NYU) in 1963 and remained there for 36 years. Although trained in nuclear and atomic physics, he became interested in astrophysics following the detection of interstellar molecules by the Charles Townes group  at Berkeley, and he then spent a summer working with Townes. His research in the 1970s and 1980s focused on interstellar clouds and the circumstellar envelopes of late-type stars. He spent a sabbatical in Berkeley in 1990 and began a long-term, fruitful collaboration with Frank Shu, working primarily on winds from young stellar objects.

After his retirement from NYU, Al joined the Berkeley faculty as an adjunct professor in 2001. In his new position, he acted like a young, un-retired full professor. He greatly enjoyed mentoring and collaborating with younger scientists, primarily on problems related to the structure and evolution of dense gas disks around forming protostars. He made substantial contributions to our understanding of the ionization structure of these disks and of the atomic and molecular emission that can be used to infer their structure. He actively melded current research on these topics into the department's consciousness by organizing an informal seminar that ran for many years, the Star Formation and Interstellar Medium (SFISM) discussion group — later called the Stars, Planets, and Interstellar Medium (SPI) discussion group. He continued formal teaching and for several years was the stalwart of the department's graduate course on the interstellar medium, teaching the course at a very high level — commensurate with his concurrent research. He often team-taught the course, continuing a tradition of intense collaborative teaching by a theorist and an observer — very time-consuming for the faculty, but highly beneficial for students, who reaped the benefit of different perspectives and approaches. As Al's body aged, his mind stayed young, and he remained active in the department until a few years ago. He is survived by his wife, Irene, and his children, Judith and Eric Glassgold. He is greatly missed.

Christopher F. McKee
Carl Heiles