Dr. John Peter Huchra died unexpectedly on Friday, October 8 at the age of 61. He was the Robert O. & Holly Thomis Doyle Professor of Cosmology and the Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research Policy at Harvard University.
"This news comes a deep shock to us all," said Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "John's career was marked with distinction for his fundamental contributions to cosmology, his tireless and effective service and advocacy for astronomy, his dedication and brilliance as a teacher and mentor, his devotion to and care for students, and his warmth and humor."
Huchra came to the CfA in 1976 as a CfA Fellow, having received his BS from MIT and his PhD from Caltech. He was a Smithsonian Astronomer from 1978 to 2005, when he became Harvard's Vice Provost for Research and Policy. He was the director of the Whipple Observatory from 1994 to 1998, and served as the Interim Director of the CfA in 2004.
He recently completed his term as president of the American Astronomical Society, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also served on the Decadal Survey Committee, which just released its report to help guide future investments by funding agencies in ground and space-based astronomical facilities.
Among his many accomplishments, John Huchra was perhaps best known for his leadership, with his collaborator Margaret Geller, of the CfA Redshift Survey - a pioneering effort to map the large-scale structure of the universe. The Survey uncovered a "Great Wall" of galaxies extending across 500 million light-years of space. This survey and others showed that we live in a "soap bubble" universe with galaxies clustering as though on the surfaces of giant bubbles separated by huge voids.
Huchra made a number of other very important contributions to astronomy, including measurements of the Hubble constant and the discovery of Huchra's Lens, one of the most dramatic early examples of gravitational lensing.
A short autobiography of Huchra is available online.
A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 12 in Story Chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA. Condolences and remembrances can be posted to an online guestbook
Huchra is survived by his wife, Rebecca M. Henderson, his parents, Mieccyslaw Huchra and Helen (Lewicki), by a son, Harry, and by a sister, Christine.
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.