Roy Henry Garstang

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In Memoriam: Roy Henry Garstang, 1925–2009

Roy GarstangRoy Henry Garstang, an OSA Fellow Emeritus known for his work on light pollution, died on November 1, 2009, in Boulder, CO, USA. He was 84.

Born in Southport, England, Garstang attended Cambridge University, receiving a BA in 1946. He served as a Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, England, from 1945–46 and as a Scientific Officer at the Ministry of Works from 1946–48. He then returned to Cambridge, receiving a PhD in Mathematics in 1954. He also earned a ScD from Cambridge in Physics and Chemistry in 1983.

Garstang was a Research Associate at Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago, in 1951–52, where he worked under the supervision of Dr. Chandrasekhar. He taught at the University of London from 1952–64 and also served as assistant director of the University of London Observatory (1959–64).

In 1964, Garstang came to the United States and joined the faculty at University of Colorado, Boulder, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. During his career he served as a professor in Physics and Astrophysics (1964–94); Chairman of the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (1966–67); Chair of the Faculty Assembly (1988–89); Director, Division of Physics and Astrogeophysics (1979-80); and Acting Director of the Fiske Planetarium (1980–81). He was named Professor Emeritus in 1994 and remained active at the University, continuing to write and do research for many years after his “retirement.”

Garstang’s professional achievements included research on atomic physics and astrophysics applications, and spectroscopy of the sun, stars and planetary nebulae. He was internationally recognized for his work on light pollution, which became his primary research interest after 1983. In 1984, Garstang began construction of a light pollution model, which raised awareness of the factors contributing to light pollution at observatory sites and led to efforts to reduce urban light pollution. He served as a consultant to many observatories located near urban areas and to other groups interested in light control with regard to placement of new observing sites and light control ordinances to protect existing sites.

Garstang joined OSA in 1964 and was named a Fellow in 1978. He held leadership positions in many national and international academic societies, including the British Astronomical Association (two terms as Vice-president), American Physical Society (Fellow), American Association for the Advancement of Science, Royal Astronomical Society, Institute of Physics (British), Royal Statistical Society and Cambridge Philosophical Society. He was a prolific writer and speaker, with over 153 articles in scientific journals, 123 conference presentations and posters, 96 colloquia and seminars at other universities, and several hundred lesser articles. He also contributed 97 “Night Sky” notes to Nature, which were published anonymously. Garstang received the University of Colorado’s Faculty Assembly Excellence in Service Award in 1990.

Garstang is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Ann, and two daughters.

The family will hold a memorial service in January 2010. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the University of Colorado Foundation at 4740 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO, 80301; please specify that they are for the CURFA Graduate Student Awards.

If you would like to make a memorial donation to the OSA Foundation in honor of Roy Garstang, please visit