Newsletter 17-11

Issue 17-11, March 8, 2017



  1. IN MEMORIAM: TOBIAS C. OWEN (1936-2017)







Tobias (Toby) C. Owen died on March 4, 2017.  With his passing, science has 

lost a great talent, a valued colleague, and to many in the US and abroad, a close 

friend.  A former student of G. P. Kuiper, Toby’s earliest work was in spectroscopy 

of the giant planets, and this interest quickly broadened to encompass all aspects 

of the origin and evolution of planetary atmospheres.  With a special interest in 

isotopic abundances, he pursued and promoted a wide range of observational and 

theoretical investigations toward understanding the origins of all the planets and 

small bodies of the Solar System.  As one of the world’s leading planetary scientists, 

he was an active participant in a great number of missions, including Apollo 15 and 16, 

Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Rosetta, Juno, and Cassini-Huygens.  He played a leading 

role in the development of the Cassini-Huygens mission as a joint project of NASA 

and ESA, and was called upon frequently to promote this and other missions to 

funding agencies in Europe as well as to NASA.  Toby had close ties with European 

colleagues, notably in France where he inspired a vigorous planetary group at the 

Paris Observatory, and also promoted collaboration with planetary scientists in the 

USSR/Russia and in other countries.  The DPS as a division of the AAS began with 

the initiative of Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, and Toby, acting on a suggestion of Juan 

Oro and with the support of several planetary specialists at Kitt Peak National 

Observatory.  In 1968, Toby and Carl forged the relationship with the AAS that 

persists to the present time.  The full story can be found on the DPS website at:



Toby was a professor at SUNY Stony Brook for many years, and then at the 

University of Hawaii, where he was affiliated until his passing.  He will be 

remembered as a man of the world, unfailingly generous and modest, and a 

great scientist.  He inspired all of his many colleagues with his enthusiasm for 

all aspects of planetary science, including the big questions of the origin of the 

Solar System and of life in the Universe.  Toby received a number of honors in 

the US and in Europe, and in 2009, he was awarded the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize 

of the DPS.


Dale Cruikshank

DPS Historian



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