1928 - 1997
The world has lost one of its most renowned scientists
with the death of Eugene Shoemaker at age 69. On the afternoon of July 18, 1997, Gene and
his wife, Carolyn, were involved in a car accident in central Australia. He was fatally
injured; Carolyn suffered broken ribs but is expected to recover.
The pair had arrived in Australia just six days before to study some
of the continent's numerous impact craters - an annual trek Down Under that they'd made a
habit in recent years.
Best known for his pioneering work in elucidating the mechanics of
impacts and in the discovery of Earth-crossing bodies, Gene gained worldwide fame in March
1993 for his discovery,with Carolyn and colleague David Levy, of a comet that would strike
Jupiter 16 months later. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was just one of the finds that made this
husband-wife team the leading comet discoverers of this century. They are also credited
with discovering more than 800 asteroids. But the one research interest he never tired of
was Meteor Crater, the kilometer-wide pit east of Flagstaff, Arizona.
While still in his teens, Gene realized that someday astronauts
would walk on the Moon, and from that point forward, his whole professional life would be
directed toward becoming one of them. But a medical condition prevented him from ever
being selected for the Apollo program. "Not going to the Moon and banging on it with
my own hammer has been the biggest disappointment of my life," he said last year.
"But then, I probably wouldn't have gone to Palomar Observatory to take some 25,000
films of the night sky with Carolyn - she scanned them all - and we wouldn't have had the
thrills of finding those funny things that go bump in the night."
THE OLD ASTRONOMER
TO HIS PUPIL
Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet;
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet.
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.
Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet.
And remember men will scorn it, 'til original and true;
But the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.
But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn.
What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles!
You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
- Sarah Williams
We are saddened by this loss; and would like to
thank Dave Clark for sending us the obituary
and Robert Haler, for sending us the poem, which we thought particularly fitting.
With permission from Sciastro