Remembering Jack Eddy, 1931-2009, R.I.P.


John A. Eddy, a solar astronomer famed for his studies of irregular variations in solar activity and their connections with Earth’s climate, died on June 10, 2009.  What was not captured in the obituaries we have seen was Dr. Eddy’s significance as one of the early leading lights in developing the interdisciplinary study of climate and global change research, and his role as a champion of bridging the gap between scientific research and public understanding.  Here we present some notes written in remembrance by a few of his many colleagues and associates.

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New York Times
June 17, 2009

John A. Eddy, Solar Detective, Dies at 78

John A. Eddy, a solar astronomer who studied the history of the sun and demonstrated that it is not a constant star with a regular cycle of behavior but rather one that has periods of anomaly, died June 10 in Tucson, where he lived….

In 1976, Dr. Eddy published an article in the journal Science in which he confirmed the speculative and largely unknown observations of 19th-century astronomers that for seven decades, from 1645 to 1715, the surface of the sun was inordinately calm, with the magnetic storms that often roil it — as indicated by the presence of sunspots — peculiarly absent.

Dr. Eddy called the peaceful interlude the Maunder Minimum, after E. W. Maunder, an English scientist who, along with a German, Gustav Spörer, first noted the presumed anomaly in the 1890s….

Daily Camera
Boulder, Colorado

John A. Eddy

…Dr. Eddy worked for 28 years as a teacher and research scientist at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder and as a scientific visitor at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; later as the founder and Director of the Office for Interdisciplinary Earth Studies at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; as Chief Scientist and Vice President for Research at a consortium of universities and research institutions in Michigan; and as a founder and Editor, with his wife Barbara, of CONSEQUENCES, a scientific journal supported by five federal agencies to explain in popular terms the nature and eventual impacts of global environmental changes of all kinds….

“The Great Beyond” science news blog
June 15, 2009

Sunspot veteran dies at 78

The American astronomer Jack Eddy, famed for his studies on the connections between solar activity and terrestrial climate, died last Wednesday in Tucson, Arizona….

In a famous study published in 1976 in Science, Eddy demonstrated a link between unusually low solar activity and the coldest period of the so-called little ice age.

During the 1640-1710 ‘Maunder Minimum’ – a term Eddy coined in honour of the 19th century British astronomer Edward W. Maunder whose sunspot studies inspired his own work on sun-climate connections – Europe and North America experienced a series of exceptionally cold winters.

Irregular variations in the 11-year sunspot cycle are an endlessly appealing topic for all those who would rather believe that the sun – not fossil fuels – is driving current climate change.
Eddy distrusted wackiness in science, but he was well aware that his discoveries were alluring to obscurants.

“There is a hypnotism about cycles that seems to attract people. It draws all kinds of creatures out of the woodwork,” he once told science historian Spencer Weart.

A brief history of his life and career can be found on wikipedia

John Allen “Jack” Eddy
March 25, 1931 – June 10, 2009

Remembering Jack Eddy

Jack was not only a great Astronomer who has focused on solar science. He also inspired the global change program both at the national and international levels. His vision has been key in the development of international programs such as IGBP (International Geosphere Bisophere Programme). I remember the summer workshop that Jack organized in Snowmass, Colorado on Earth System Modeling. This topic is becoming central to many large climate and environmental research programs today.

Jack has also played a key role here at NCAR as a member of the High Altitude Observatory.

We will miss his vision and we will miss Jack as a friend and colleague. We should not forget his messages and his views.

Guy P. Brasseur

Associate Director
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Boulder, Colorado

Director of the Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL)

One of Jack’s accomplishments that was not mentioned in the NY Times obituary is his work in conceptualizing and developing new publications about climate and global change.  He was responsible for starting HumanDimensions while he was at CIESIN and then he started Consequences, which was an excellent publication, synthesizing the state of our knowledge about global change.  He was always conscious of bridging the gap between basic research and public understanding and he could speak to people in both worlds.

Roberta Balstad, Ph.D.

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions
Columbia University
New York, New York
Editor-in-Chief, Weather, Climate, and Society, American Meteorological Society

I met Jack Eddy at a meeting in Lithuania in 1987 as the only other American there. It was a meeting for Lithuania to show off its environment and sustainable development plan (which translated from the Russian as “stability plan”). While we were there glasnost was complimented with peristroika, and we had long discussions of the significance of all of this with our Soviet colleagues.

Jack invited me to come to an Office for Interdisciplinary Earth Studies meeting in Colorado to discuss my previous work on ozone protection legislation. He offered me a position as Associate Director at OIES, an offer that I could not take at the time, but then engaged me as chair of the OIES board. This is where I had the pleasure of getting to know him very well. He was energetic, visionary and committed to using science to understand and identify solutions to major problems like climate change. Those were exciting times as Jack developed and convinced others of the importance of what he called “Earth Systems Science.” He also convinced me that I could make a shift in my career direction out of the lab to become a Policy Scientist. This is a change in direction that I have never regretted. His presence and insights will be missed by all who value science in the service of society.

Bill Moomaw

Prof. William Moomaw
Center for International Environment and Resource Policy
The Fletcher School
Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts

For those who have been connected with Global Change issues this is a sad loss indeed.  Jack was one of the pioneers in Global Change Science and communicating the urgency to take action in the 1980’s.  I had the immense pleasure to work with Jack as a post-doc and novice to global change in the 1988 to 1990 when we both created the research programs of the IGBP. He hosted me while I edited a workshop book on earth system modeling.  We need to find more champions like Jack to find solutions to global change.

Dennis Ojima, PHD

Senior Scholar in Residence
The Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment
Washington DC

I worked a bit with Jack Eddy in the late 1980’s.  He was generous, thoughtful, visionary.  He inspired me and was one of the primary figures in interdisciplinary earth systems science helping to launch and structure major research agendas and promulgate a new way of thinking about Earth and global environmental change.

I met Jack Eddy I think in 1988. At that time, Rick Chappell, then at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and I were developing ideas for the founding of the Aspen Global Change Institute. Rick knew Jack and brought him into the discussion.  In 1989 Jack agreed to serve with me and Rick on an organizing committee to explore the possibility of creating AGCI.  Jack helped put together a dozen or so scientists and program officers to consider the merits of forming AGCI and its mission.  Shelby Tilford was directing the Office of Earth Science at NASA and provided a planning grant that enabled us to get the group together in August of 1989 and work out the formation of AGCI.  The discussions were very productive and we held our first summer of interdisciplinary sessions the next year.

Jack was the perfect person for this task.  He championed interdisciplinary studies, particularly applied to earth systems, he knew an incredible range of people and as it turned out, the group he helped put together in 1989 led to the success of AGCI getting established.  This group included Tom Malone, Berrien Moore, Paul Risser, and Richard Somerville.

At that time Jack was the director of the Office for Interdisciplinary Earth Studies at UCAR in Boulder.  Among other tasks he organized annual interdisciplinary sessions in Snowmass which led to a number of books/reports covering a range of topics in global change.  OIES published Earthquest—a quarterly that explored topics in ESS, programmatic issues of national and international efforts, and education and public outreach. Mid to late 1990’s he was the editor of the journal Consequences: The Nature and Implications of Environmental Change.

I’m sure others that knew him better can expand a great deal on his contribution to interdisciplinary global change research.  For my brief encounter I was deeply impressed by his thoughtfulness, knowledge, and dedication to science and its role in society.

John Katzenberger

Aspen Global Change Institute
Aspen, Colorado

As a new Congressional staffer for George Brown of California in the late 1980s, covering environment and energy issues for him, I was his point person on climate change.  I became steeped in it in 1987, and quickly adopted it as my central career mission, as it has remained to this very day, 22 years later.  I was privileged to be among those Hill staff invited by UCAR/NCAR to Colorado on several occasions to meet amongst climate scientists and policymakers to mull over how we were going to move forward on national policy to deal with the problem of global warming, and how best to talk to the media about it (a challenge we still grapple with!)  Many icons of the climate science world were there; Jack Eddy was there too.  I recall his friendliness, his ability to crack a joke with a wink and a smile, to be approachable, and very informative, and wise.  He literally sparkled, and lit up the room.  It was fun to be around him, and, of course, educational too:  a fabulous combination for any human being.  One day, I hope someone writes a biographical compendium of all of our climate luminaries (heroes)—Wally Broecker, Roger Revelle, John Firor, Walter Orr Roberts, George Woodwell, Francis Bretherton, Mario Molina, Charles Keeling, Bob Watson, Jack Eddy, and yes of course Robert (Bob) Corell.  It’s an honor to have known Jack Eddy, albeit only briefly.

Anne Polansky

Senior Associate
Climate Science Watch
Government Accountability Project
Washington, DC


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