I just heard that astronomer John Huchra has died. Astronomy has lost a big player and a very nice man.
His contributions to the field of cosmology are wide and deep. You can read some of them over at Cosmic Variance.
In college and grad school we learned about his accomplishments, like the redshift survey, and the famous stickman image. For years, he wasn’t much more than a name to me, although one associated with big, important cosmological results.
And then, just a couple of years ago, I ran into him for what I think was the first time. It was at an American Astronomical Society meeting. Every year there’s a big party with dancing at some club or bar, and of all the places that was where I met him (he’s shown here with astronomer Pamela Gay at that party). We chatted for a while, and I was surprised to find he was warm, funny, even a bit silly. I remember some of the folks were giving away astronomically-themed temporary tattoos, and he wanted to get one.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised– lots of astronomers are very, very different than the stuffy, stiff mold our brains stereotype them as — but it sure is nice to know that some of the great ones really are human. I’m saddened by the loss to the community, and to science. We could use more folks like John.