The Passing of a Founding Father of Our Laboratory

On May 6, 2011, we lost one of the founding members of our laboratory, George Colvin Reid.

George began working at the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (CRPL) of the National Bureau of Standards (a part of the Department of Commerce, now NIST) in Boulder in 1963. Though the organization would go through many changes as laboratories were formed, reorganized, and renamed, George remained a scientist and leader through it all. He pursued his passionate interests in science up until a few days before his death at age 81 of pancreatic cancer.

photo from the younger years

George was leading the High-Latitude Ionospheric Physics Section of CRPL in 1965 when a reorganization resulted in the creation of the Chemical Sciences Division's predecessors. A new "Aeronomy Division" was formed, which later became the Aeronomy Laboratory upon NOAA's formation in 1970. George was in fact the first Director of the Aeronomy Laboratory, serving in an acting capacity from 1970 to 1972. He subsequently served as the Aeronomy Lab's Deputy Director for 15 years, and then was a Senior Scientist in the Lab until he retired from federal service in 1998.

Along the way George became one of the four initial founding Fellows of CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, in 1968. CIRES was the first Cooperative Institute of NOAA with a university (in this case, the University of Colorado). We owe a great debt to George for his role in founding this partnership, which remains vital and thriving to this day. He served as a CIRES Senior Research Associate after leaving the federal service and helped with many scientific, administrative, and leadership roles in the CIRES-NOAA partnership over the last several years. Near the end of his career, George became a NOAA Scientist Emeritus and continued his scientific contributions; he was still working on a manuscript when he passed away.

photo from recent years

In 1978, the International Herald Tribune made an amusing grammatical blunder in reporting that "Some government scientists are studying natural hazards to human survival, among them Doctor George Reid of the Aeronomy Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration." To which The New Yorker replied, "Aw, come on – Georgie wouldn't hurt a fly." George kept those mementos and passed them along to us a few years ago, obviously tickled at all the fuss.

George is remembered as an impeccable scientist; a generous mentor; a thoughtful leader; a good friend; and a kind soul. Without fail, he greeted colleagues with genuine warmth and good humor. Even casual acquaintances felt a friendly connection whenever they encountered George. He was a gentleman, and a gentle man.

We're grateful. We're indebted to him. And we miss him.

2012 April 13
4-5 pm
CIRES Distinguished Lecture: A Tribute to Dr. George Reid
Speaker: Dr. Susan Solomon
Location: University of Colorado, Boulder, Visual Arts Complex (VAC), Art & Art History Building, Room 1B20