All of Caltech, and the cosmology community worldwide, is mourning the death of Andrew Lange. He was one of the world’s leading scientists, co-leader of the Boomerang experiment that provided the first precise measurement of the first acoustic peak in the cosmic microwave background. He took his own life Thursday night.
It’s hard to convey how unexpected and tragic this news is. Very few people combined Andrew’s brilliance as a scientist with his warmth as a person. He always had a sparkle in his eye, was enthusiastically in love with science and ideas, and was constantly doing his best to make Caltech the best possible place, not just for himself but for everyone else around him. He was one of the good guys. The last I spoke with him, Andrew was energetically raising funds for a new submillimeter telescope, organizing conferences, and helping plan for a new theoretical physics center. We are all walking around in shock, wondering how this could happen and whether we could have done anything to prevent it. Caltech has had several suicides this year — hard to make sense of any of them.
The message from Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau is below the fold. For any local readers, there’s contact info if you would like to talk to counselors for any reason.
January 22, 2010
TO: The Caltech Community
FROM: Jean-Lou Chameau
It is with great sadness and regret that I must report to you the death of Professor Andrew Lange, a valued member of the Caltech faculty. Andrew was found this morning off campus, and it appears that he took his own life. Among the most difficult things that people have to deal with in life are tragedies of this sort, especially when they affect people that we know and care for; and Andrew was such a well-known, well-respected, and well-liked member of our community that many of us will be deeply affected.
Andrew came to Caltech in 1993 and was most recently the chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. He was a truly great physicist and astronomer who had made seminal discoveries in observational cosmology.
Andrew was a valued colleague and a close friend to many of us. His death is a source of great sadness to us all and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues, all of whom mourn his loss.
We know this tragic news will come as a shock to everyone — faculty, staff, and students alike, even those of you who knew that Andrew had been struggling with personal issues. Many of us feel the need in times like these to reach out and seek help in dealing with the shock, and I urge anyone who wants help to seek it from family members, friends, faculty, and/or professional counselors. This is not only a reasonable thing to do, it is an important thing to do. I want to emphasize in particular that counselors are always available, 24-hours a day. Students should call the Counseling Center at 626-395-8331, while faculty, staff, and postdocs, should call the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center at 626-395-8360. In addition, the Counseling Center will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10-3pm.