Newsletter Editor editor at igpp.ucla.edu
Mon May 9 17:25:09 PDT 2016

Volume XXIII, Issue 24

Editor: Peter Chi
Co-Editor: Guan Le
Distribution Support: Marjorie Sowmendran, Todd King, Kevin Addison
E-mail: editor at igpp.ucla.edu


Table of Contents

1. Theodore Wesley Speiser, November 23, 1934 - April 8, 2016



Theodore Wesley Speiser, November 23, 1934 - April 8, 2016

From: Thomas E Moore, David S Evans, Donald Fairfield, Terry G Forbes, Donald J Williams (thomas.e.moore at nasa.gov)

Ted Speiser passed peacefully on April 8, 2016 after complications stemming from a stroke. He was 81.

Ted was Professor Emeritus at CU Boulder in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and consulted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Environment Laboratory in Boulder. As a Colorado native, Ted's long and productive career began with the study of physics at Colorado State University, progressed to a master's at California Institute of Technology (1959), and then a PhD at Penn State University where he was a student of James W Dungey of Imperial College, London, who was a consultant at Penn State’s Ionosphere Research Laboratory. From this relationship Ted learned of the importance of magnetic reconnection as an important factor in magnetospheric dynamics and used and developed the theory to help understand particle transport through the magnetosphere.

Ted then went to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a post-doctoral researcher and used his considerable theoretical expertise in analyzing satellite observations of magnetospheric particles. He subsequently spent a year with Dungey at Imperial College, London, before returning to and settling in Colorado as a professor in the then-Department of Astrogeophysics. Ted also served as a 2nd Lt in the US Army, and was also a Fulbright Scholar and Humboldt award recipient in Germany, where he later spent a sabbatical working with Karl Schindler at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. 

Ted’s research interests revolved around the motions of charged particles in plasmas undergoing magnetic reconnection, the process whereby magnetic fields from diverse sources connect with and disconnect from each other, transferring, storing, and releasing energy and plasmas, explosively at times, for example in solar flares and auroral substorms. CU graduate students fortunate enough to come under Ted’s influence enjoyed his full semester course on that topic, one of the first such courses taught at any American university. Ted is perhaps best known for describing what are universally known as the “Speiser orbits” of charged particles in reconnecting magnetic field current sheets. After over 50 years, these remain a key element of heliophysics and our knowledge about reconnection, which was identified by Dungey as the most fundamental process controlling interactions between the Sun and magnetized planets.

In the 1960’s when Ted first investigated reconnection, it was still a controversial concept that at times generated emotional arguments among advocates and skeptics. The lack of collisional dissipation in space plasmas became a sticking point, which was addressed by Ted in a paper entitled “Conductivity without collisions or noise”. True to his particle motion studies, he pointed out that electric fields may exist in space without benefit of classically resistive media, a point that was also relevant to the acceleration of particles in aurora. Ted was clearly an advocate of the importance of reconnection, a position which was finally vindicated by a series of observations culminating with those from the International Sun Earth Explorer in the late 1970’s.

As part of his consulting work at NOAA/SEL, Ted was also active in numerous related areas of space plasma physics, from the formation of auroras on the dayside of Earth, to the structure and motions of the magnetotail, and its current sheets, to the explosive phenomena of auroral substorms, to the energetic particles whose pressure inflates the inner magnetosphere of Earth. Ted’s unique approach of building particle distribution functions and mapping them into and through the magnetosphere, all the while comparing them to observations, lead to important insights to particle transport into and throughout this complex regime. Some of us, including Thomas Detman, Jo Ann Joselyn, and Zdenka Smith at NOAA/SEL remember Ted as a mentor and supportive friend, prone to deep physical and philosophical discussions over coffee and doughnuts, in a more relaxed environment.

Ted would have been thrilled by observations from the recently launched NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, which is dedicated to investigating reconnection. He delighted in the pursuit of new scientific discoveries, from solar physics to experimental treatments for his Parkinson’s illness.

Ted also had an insatiable love for travel, hiking, cross-country skiing, tennis, photography, music, football, and practical jokes. Ted also loved ping-pong and tennis and was a formidable competitor, often traveling with his personal paddle and racket. His research travels took him to the Soviet Union, Europe, and Asia, and he eagerly traveled with his family throughout Colorado and beyond.

Born November 23, 1934 in Del Norte, CO to Alfred and Virginia Speiser, Ted attended high school in Fort Collins where he met and married Patricia McCrummen. Together they raised three daughters, Tanya Muschietti (California), Kelly Speiser (Lakewood), and Tertia Speiser (Lakewood).

Ted greatly enjoyed his two granddaughters, Dana and Adelaide. He is also survived by his sister Joann Hooper and family of Longmont, CO. Ted was a gifted, generous, supportive and finally courageous colleague and will be missed dearly by all those who have known and worked with him.


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