Tribute to Dr. John N. Bahcall by Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director, Office of Science

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Dr. John N. Bahcall. He was a quiet giant of science, and a good friend. John devoted himself to the betterment of mankind. His leadership in astronomy, cosmology, and in the many societies that he served so well has left lasting influence.

He is most famous for his difficult but quite correct calculation of the solar neutrino flux. When Raymond Davis, Jr., found less than John predicted, many wrote off the difference, but not John. His accuracy and tenacity, together with Ray’s remarkably precise measurements, opened the door to a new world of complexity, still to be probed in its fullest extent. I was honored to join with then Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, to present both John and Ray the 2003 DOE Enrico Fermi Award, the highest scientific honor our Department can bestow.

John was tireless in his pursuit of new science. He championed the Hubble Space Telescope. I remember well his passionate support for a deep underground laboratory that would be large enough to encompass a suite of detectors for fundamental physics measurements. This part of his dream is yet to be realized, but it will, and we shall owe it and so much more to this remarkable colleague.

John created a legacy of imagination and precision, of creativity and rigor. His passing lessens us all.

Note: John Bahcall’s obituary can be found on the Instutute for Advanced Study web site. Information about Dr. Bahcall’s 2003 Enrico Fermi Award is available on the DOE Office of Science web site.