In Memoriam: Aden Meinel, founder of Kitt Peak National Observatory

05 October 2011

Aden Meinel, Professor Emeritus of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona (UA), died October 2 at his home in Nevada. He was 88.

Meinel was the first director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1958-1960 and was the Founding Director of the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona. The Meinel Building, which houses the UA College of Optical Sciences, is named for him.

Meinel's research interests included upper atmospheric physics, glass technology, optical design, instrumentation, and space systems and telescopes.

"So much of what we accomplish is by 'standing on the shoulders of giants.' In the fields of optics and astronomy, Aden Meinel is truly a giant," said John Greivenkamp, professor at the College of Optical Sciences. "Aden is singlehandedly responsible for making Tucson, Arizona and the University of Arizona one of the major centers of optics and astronomy in the world. It all started with him and his vision for what could be done.

"I know that Aden was very proud of what the Optical Sciences Center has grown to become," Greivenkamp continued. "He set a standard that we all must strive to live up to.  I suspect that his advice to all of us would be to know the hurdles before us, but to not fear them and to just go and get it done.  It seems that this is the way he lived his life."

Meinel, along with his wife and research partner Marjorie, received SPIE's Gold Medal in 1997, the Rudolf Kingslake Medal in 1994 and 2001, and the Goddard Award in 1984. Other awards include the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1993, and the George van Biesbroeck Award for Services in Astronomy in 1990. Marjorie died in 2008.

Both Meinels were Fellows of SPIE, and authored numerous papers for SPIE symposia.

His memorial will be held on Oct 14 at 4pm at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, 2 South Pecos Rd., Henderson, Nevada.

Read more:

Defining the Golden Age of Science: the Meinels make their marks in astronomy From oemagazine, June 2002.