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Eddy, John A.



  • Existence: 1931-2009


John A. Eddy, a long-time employee of NCAR and UCAR, whose pioneering research into the history of the Sun challenged earlier concepts of solar behavior, died on June 10, 2009 at his home in Tucson, Arizona, after a long battle with cancer. He was 78, and for the last 6 years was employed at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson. Dr. Eddy's 1976 paper confirming the reality of a 70 year period in the life of the Sun in which sunspots all but disappeared from its face came as a surprise in solar physics, which had long viewed the Sun as a more constant star whose variations were limited to a regular eleven-year cycle in the number of sunspots and other signs of solar activity. In making the case for the anomaly-which he called the Maunder Minimum-he gathered and interpreted data from a wide variety of sources, including first-hand accounts from extant historical observations of the Sun going back to the telescopic observations of Galileo and other contemporary scientists of the 17th and early 18th centuries; from historical reports of the aurora borealis observed in past centuries in Europe and the New World; from visual observations of sunspots seen with the unaided eye at sunrise and sunset in dynastic records from the Orient; from existing descriptions of the eclipsed Sun; and from measurements of carbon-14 in dated tree-rings. In the last of these, which can be used as a proxy indicator of solar activity, he found evidence of other similar periods of solar quiescence in the distant past, the most recent an even longer span, from about 1450 until 1540, which he named the Spörer Minimum. Both the Maunder and Spörer minima fell during the coldest parts of the Little Ice Age, which suggested a meaningful connection between the longer term behavior of the Sun and of the Earth's mean surface temperature. Dr. Eddy came also to be known for his work in the astronomy of the early Indians of the American plains, and particularly the astronomical alignments of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and the Moose River wheel in southern Saskatchewan. He was as well a pioneer and champion of the application of historical data in the solution of modern problems in astronomy, and served as President of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society and of the Commission on Historical Astronomy of the International Astronomical Union. Later in his career he left astronomy to work for twenty years on behalf of national and global efforts to understand global environmental changes of the present and the distant past. He chaired many national and international scientific committees, was a respected teacher, a sought-after speaker and popularizer of science, and the author or editor of six books and more than 150 scientific papers. Dr. Eddy received the Arctowski Prize for Solar-Terrestrial Physics from the National Academy of Sciences, the James Arthur Prize in Solar and Solar Terrestrial Physics of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. John Allen Eddy was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska in 1931 and in 1949 admitted as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon graduation in 1953 he served for four years at sea as a line officer on aircraft carriers during the Korean War and later in the Persian Gulf as navigator and operations officer on a destroyer in the Atlantic Fleet. In 1957 he left active service in the Navy to enter graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where in 1962 he was awarded a Ph.D. in Astro-Geophysics. 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. Upon moving to Tucson and until the time of his death, he worked as a full-time employee of NASA at the National Solar Observatory there. Dr. Eddy is survived by Barbara, his beloved wife of 17 years; four children from an earlier marriage to Marjorie Bratt Eddy: Alexandra Eddy of Longmont; Amy Gale of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Jack Jr. of Laguna Beach, California; and Elisabeth Walker of Kirkland, Washington; a brother Robert, of Longmont, Colorado and a sister, Lucille Hunzeker, of Humboldt, Nebraska.

Author: Akron News Reporter Staff
Citation: Accessed March 9, 2010

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

John A. Eddy Papers

 Collection — Other 1-5
Identifier: 04-02-JAE

The collection is arranged by material type and then chronologically.

The collection consists of three series in five boxes:

Series I: Correspondence, 1976-1984

Series II: Presentations, 1958-1984 and undated

Series III: Other materials, 1980-1982

Dates: 1958-1984; Majority of material found in 1970-1984

Office of Interdisciplinary Earth Studies (OIES) Records

Identifier:  - OIES
Arrangement Arrangement is by chronological order within each series and subseries. In the container list, these titles have been transcribed as accurately as possible. There is not a distinction made between the original folder titles and those provided by the processor. The collection is housed in 8 record cartons and 1 half Hollinger box, and it is arranged into eight main series: I. Administrative II. Arid Workshop III. Forum on Data Management and Global Change IV. Global Change Institute V....
Dates: 1984-1992; Majority of material found in 1986-1992; Other: Date acquired: 2011-01-05