Roger Doxsey, 1947 – 2009

By Phil Plait | October 18, 2009 3:31 pm

I’m sad to report that Roger Doxsey, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s (STScI) Hubble Mission Office, died a few days ago.

I didn’t know Roger personally — we had met a few times, but very causally when I was working on Hubble — but people who knew him say he was "the heart and soul" of Hubble. He worked with the venerable observatory since 1981, dedicating his life to the mission and winning numerous prestigious awards for it. You can read more about his remarkable contributions to astronomy and Hubble in the obituary in the Baltimore Sun.


Comments (14)

  1. It’s always sad when Science looses an advocate. My thoughts go to the folks who did know him.

  2. Jerry2665

    RIP, Roger Doxsey

  3. Cindy

    I was a lowly technical assistant at STScI, but I remember him being one of the “nice” bigwigs. Didn’t really know him – sat in on some meetings where he was there, especially as we were planning things for the first servicing mission.

    Sorry to hear that he died.

  4. StevoR

    My condolences to his friends and family. A sad loss for the wider scientific – and other – world too. I wish I could’ve known or met him.

  5. bassmanpete

    Phil, I think your dyslexic fingers were at work in paragraph 2. Didn’t you mean casually not causally?

    Sad to hear of Roger’s passing, but at least he saw the results of his work unlike, for example, R. J. Mitchell (the Spitfire), and Alfred Wegener (continental drift).

  6. I attended a seminar at the Smithsonian this past Saturday given by STScI senior astrophysicist Mario Livio, who mentioned Doxsey’s demise and noted that Roger knew more about Hubble than anyone.

  7. Dave L

    I worked with Roger for 20+ years….he was always very professional and knew HST like the back of his hand. Hubble is a marvelous machine but without people like Roger behind the scenes, the spacecraft would never have made the impact it has. The HST family of engineers and scientists have lost a great man.

  8. Joe

    I worked (contractor) at STScI in ’85, and met Roger many times. He was brilliant and good man. RIP.

  9. Doug

    Oh wow, this hit me kind of hard. I worked at StSci for 12 years with Rodger. (People always forget the “d”. ) He was easily one of the most competent people there as well as one of the hardest working.

    As a rule, scientists in management positions at StSci did not work out well. They were evaluated by their science production mostly by journal articles, not by there managerial skill. Rodger was the biggest exception. He KNEW operations and understood how the systems worked at a very detailed level. He was always soft-spoken and I don’t think I ever saw him lose his temper.

    He was one of the good ones. I hope he knew how much we all appreciated him. RIP, Rodger.

  10. Doug

    BTW, it really was spelled “Rodger”. You might want to change that in your announcement.

  11. Cindy


    Which years were you at STScI? I was there from 89-94 and used to be the FOS TA. Now that you mention it, Rodger was one of the effective managers unlike some of the others.

  12. Jim Kelley

    I had the pleasure of working with Rodger several times while working on HST for Lockheed. Rodger was one of a few people who were cornerstones of HST. It is hard to imagine Science Operations without him. Just a terrific person in every way.

  13. Chris B

    The three people who could have claimed the most credit for HST’s are now dead. Lyman Spitzer proposed a large space telescope and advocated for it from 1946, John Bahcall made sure it got paid for, and Rodger made sure it worked on a practical daily basis for the best part of 20 years. Rodger received significant accolades and awards for his quiet, unassuming work but perhaps never really received and certainly never sought the public notice that he deserves. Only one person in all history can be responsible for operations of the first observatory to see with clarity above the earth’;s atmosphere. Roger achieved that distinction and did so with humility and absolute mastery. He made sure we could operate HST, made sure we could diagnose and fix it, made sure we could improve it, and made sure that the thousands of HST papers and discoveries were possible. Few people were essential to HST’s success. Rodger’s commitment ensured that it worked, survived its initial setbacks, and produced its legacy.

  14. ML

    I am Rodger’s sister and I can confirm the ‘d’ in Rodger. He was born on our Uncle Rodger’s birthday and named for him. Thanks Doug, for noting it. Usually it is the ‘s’ in Doxsey that is forgotten!

    My family and I were touched by the outpouring of support from Rodger’s “Hubble Family”.

    Thank you for the kind words.


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