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Sun Dec 29 15:11:58 PST 2019

Volume XXVI, Issue 75


Table of Contents

1. Tom G. Slanger (1935-2019)


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Tom G. Slanger (1935-2019)

From: Kostas Kalogerakis (ksk at sri.com)

Tom G. Slanger, an internationally recognized leader in upper atmospheric research, passed away on November 4, 2019. For more than five decades, he performed pioneering research on the laboratory investigation and observational interpretation of the kinetics, spectroscopy, and photochemistry of excited atoms and molecules important in planetary atmospheres.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1935, Tom Slanger and his family came to the USA in 1946 and settled in Los Angeles. He studied at the California Institute of Technology, where he obtained a B.S. in applied chemistry in 1956 and an M.S. in chemical engineering in 1957. After working approximately one year in chemical industry, he realized his true calling was in research. He pursued graduate studies at the University of California in Los Angeles and obtained his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry in 1965, working with Professor Kyle Bayes on the topic of gas-phase, charge exchange reactions. After completing one year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre d’ Etudes Nucleaires in Saclay, France, he began working at Stanford Research Institute (SRI)—later renamed SRI International—in Menlo Park, California, where he continued working for the next 53 years.

Tom Slanger’s research was largely devoted to the kinetics and spectroscopy of atoms and small molecules as they relate to atmospheric processes. Most of these investigations involved electronically excited states, and he was particularly interested in studying and interpreting airglow processes in the terrestrial and other planetary atmospheres. Beginning in 1968, he pioneered many of the techniques for laboratory generation and detection of excited and ground-state oxygen and nitrogen atoms and the application of these techniques to quantify the importance of these species in the upper atmosphere. His studies included the first use of resonance fluorescence for the detection of O atoms, a technique that has since been widely used for the measurement of O atoms in the atmosphere. Tom Slanger also led the development and application of novel laser-based methodologies to generate and detect atmospherically important excited molecules such as O2, N2, and NO. Besides seminal laboratory studies involving excited atoms and molecules, he pioneered the use of high-resolution astronomical sky spectra in the study of the Earth’s nightglow. These studies led to a number of accomplishments, including the first quantitative spectroscopic information on many vibrational levels in both the ground state and excited states of molecular oxygen, observations of the hydroxyl radical and the variability of the sodium D line ratio, and the identification of a broad range of ionospheric O-atom transitions and nightglow emissions from molecular oxygen. Beyond Earth, these observations also led to the first observation of the atomic oxygen green-line emission on Venus. Tom Slanger authored more than 200 publications on his research results.

In 2008, Tom Slanger was designated an American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fellow by the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy Section. He served as an Associate Editor of JGR Space Physics, Planetary and Space Science, and the Journal of Photochemistry. In 1993, he received an AGU Award for Excellence in Editing. In 1984, he received an SRI Exceptional Achievement Award and was elected to an SRI Fellowship in 1997.

Tom Slanger was loved and appreciated by his fellow colleagues and mentored several students and young scientists. His curiosity, creativity, gentle demeanor, and enthusiasm for life extended well beyond his scientific endeavors. He was an avid reader and had numerous interests ranging from history, literature, photography, and the arts in general, to tennis and travels. On his desk at SRI, it was not uncommon to find outlines for a scientific manuscript lying next to an unfinished theatrical play or a draft screenplay.

The upper atmospheric science community lost a distinguished colleague, role model, and friend who will be sorely missed.


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