Newsletter Editor editor at igpp.ucla.edu
Tue Feb 26 10:41:59 PST 2019

Volume XXVI, Issue 13


Table of Contents

1. Don Carpenter Obituary


Announcement Submission Website: http://goo.gl/forms/qjcm4dDr4g


Don Carpenter Obituary

From: Vikas Sonwalkar, Antony Fraser-Smith, Umran S. Inan, Mark Golkowski, Jacob Bortnik (jbortnik at gmail.com)

Donald Leland Carpenter, 91, a pioneer space scientist, passed away peacefully on February 5, 2019, in Santa Cruz, California. Don Carpenter, as he was generally known,  is best  known as the discoverer of what is now called the ‘plasmapause’ (affectionately also known as ‘Carpenter’s Knee’), the sharp drop in the density of plasma  that co-rotates with the Earth and plays a fundamental role in the physics of the upper atmosphere. 

Born on January 3, 1928, in Spokane, Washington, Don graduated from Grant High School in Portland, Oregon and served in the U.S. Navy from 1946 to 1948. He then studied international politics and language at Willamette University and in 1951 moved to New York City to pursue his Master’s degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Ultimately, discovering his true calling, as described in his contribution to the 1997 AGU publication Discovery of the Magnetosphere, Don settled in the Bay Area, attending Stanford University for his MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering.  He was a research professor for over 40 years at the Space Telecommunications & Radio Science Laboratory (STAR Lab) at Stanford University, a career he truly enjoyed. Using naturally-occurring and manmade very low frequency (VLF) waves as a tool to probe the upper atmosphere, Don made significant contributions to many areas of magnetospheric physics until he was well into his eighties.  At age 87 Don authored a book on the history of radio research at Stanford entitled Very Low Frequency Space Radio Research at Stanford 1950 – 1990. In 2002, he was nominated by Belgium and awarded the John Howard Dellinger Medal by the International Union of Radio Science “For his discovery of the plasmapause, for pioneering studies of the plasmasphere structure and dynamics and for development and use of whistler-mode waves as diagnostic probes of the magnetosphere.” In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.  Collaborators and close friends of Don included scientists from all parts of the world.  A man of impeccable integrity and great personal humility and generosity, Don was truly loved by his colleagues, students, friends, and family alike. 

Don helped to form a running group at Stanford called the Angell Field Ancients where he made many life-long friends. Later in life when Don could no longer run, he and his beloved wife of more than 50 years, Betty Carpenter, spent many hours hiking trails near their home in Palo Alto, California. In addition to running and scientific discovery, Don had a passion for languages speaking several fluently. Two years ago, Don moved to Aptos, California to be closer to family, including his granddaughter who brought him much joy.

Don is survived by his two sons, Frederic P. Carpenter and his wife Rose of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Jesse V. Carpenter and his wife Erika and granddaughter Megan of Aptos, California, and his brother Richard Carpenter of Portland, Oregon. A life celebration memorial will be held at the Palo Alto Lucie Stern Community Center on Saturday March 16 at 1 pm. For more information or to RSVP please email memorialDLC2019 at gmail.com.


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