Tribute for Pioneering Natural Sciences Professors

Dear Rice community,

I’m writing to acknowledge the deaths of three pioneering faculty members in space science and geophysics. Alex Dessler, the founding father of Rice space science, died earlier this month at age 94. Alex taught at Rice for 30 years after founding the first university department dedicated to the study of space science, a move that came at the height of the U.S.-Soviet space race. He retired in 1993. You can read more about him and his lasting contributions in this Rice News story.

The university also recently lost Manik Talwani, professor emeritus of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, whose successful career spanned more than 60 years. Manik died March 22 at age 89. His groundbreaking research helped revolutionize geophysics and impacted our understanding of plate tectonics. Manik conducted geophysical field work in all the ocean basins and across the San Andreas Fault. He transformed our understanding of how the Earth works. You can read more here about Manik and his famous methods for interpreting gravity and magnetics data.

At the end of 2022, alumnus and professor emeritus Arthur Few died at age 83. He first came to the university as a doctoral student in space science and physics and then stayed as a faculty member, eventually becoming a tenured faculty member teaching classes in atmospheric physics. Arthur was internationally recognized as an authority in atmospheric science and electricity, specifically thunderstorms and lightning. He and his wife, Joan, were the inaugural magisters of Martel College in 2000. You can read more about Arthur here.

The Rice community has lost numerous retired faculty members in this last year. Each of them played a role in making Rice into the world-class university that it is today, and I am grateful for their influence. My condolences are with their families and colleagues.

Warm Regards,