Ted Bowell 1943-2023


Noted astronomer Dr. Edward Leonard George “Ted” Bowell (79) passed away peacefully in Flagstaff on August 21, 2023.

Ted earned a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Paris in 1973. That same year, Dr. Bill Baum, then serving as Director of the Planetary Research Center at Lowell Observatory, offered him a job that involved the photographic study of planets. Thus began Ted’s career at Lowell, which lasted nearly 38 years until his retirement in 2011. Ted took advantage of this connection to the observatory; when people mispronounced his name, he pointed out, “It’s pronounced Bowell, which rhymes with Lowell.”

While Ted spent much of his early time at Lowell studying planets, he eventually turned his attention to asteroids. Initially using the 13-inch Lawrence Lowell Telescope—the instrument that Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto, and commonly referred to as the Pluto Discovery Telescope—he began searching for these small celestial bodies. From 1979-1988, he led a survey that resulted in the discovery and naming of more than 600 such bodies. Years later, in 1993, he embarked on a new project to search for asteroids and comets that orbit close to Earth (called Near-Earth Objects, or NEOs). Generally referred to as LONEOS, for Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search, this study lasted until 2008. Under Ted’s direction, LONEOS discovered more than 21,000 asteroids (more than 200 of these are NEOs) and 40 comets.

In the astronomical community, Ted was world-renowned for his leadership in the study of asteroids. From 2000-2003, he served as president of Commission 20 (Positions and Motions of Minor Planets, Comets, and Satellites) of the International Astronomical Union, and from 2003-2006 he was vice president of Division III (Planetary System Sciences) of the International Astronomical Union. He was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa (honorary doctorate) in 2005 from V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University (Ukraine) and was honored by Polish composer Magdalena Cynk in her musical piece Asteroid 2246 Bowell, for violin, cello, clarinet and trombone.

Ted maintained a lifelong passion for music and served on the Flagstaff Symphony Board, for which he was president for a time. He also enjoyed spending time outdoors, regularly going on hikes of ten miles and more around the San Francisco Peaks. His curiosity to explore often turned a “short Sunday stroll” into an hours-long ramble through the wilderness.

Donations in Ted’s name may be made to Lowell Observatory or the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Abbreviated version from this site: https://www.flagstaffmortuary.com/obituary/edward-bowell