Donald A. Gurnett
January 19, 2022
Donald Alfred "Don" Gurnett (April 11, 1940 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – January 13, 2022) was an American physicist who studied space plasmas and was a professor at the University of Iowa. Gurnett received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Iowa in 1962, and then his master's degree in physics in 1963 and his doctorate in 1965. His research into space plasmas (and his involvement in the development of electronics and measuring devices for space missions) began while he was a student eventually led to early studies of plasma waves in the Earth's radiation belt (via low-frequency radio waves). From 1962 he was a NASA trainee at the University of Iowa and Stanford University (1964/65). In 1965 he became an assistant professor, 1968 associate professor and 1972 professor at the University of Iowa. His involvement with space plasmas continued through his involvement in some 30 NASA missions, including Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He was particularly concerned with the formation of the plasma waves observable in the radio spectrum in the plasmas of the radiation belts of planets with magnetic fields and wave-particle interactions in the plasmas, which are often easier to study in space than in the laboratory. In 1998 he became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and in 2004 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2014 he gave the Van Vleck Lecture and in 2006 the EGU Hannes Alfvén Medal. In addition, he received the Humboldt Research Prize, with which he was at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching (1975/76). In 1989 he received the John Adam Fleming Medal from the American Geophysical Union and the Excellence in Plasma Physics Award from the APS and in 1978 the John Howard Dellinger Gold Medal from the International Scientific Radio Union. In 1979/80 he was a visiting professor at UCLA.