Kinsey Anderson, UC Berkeley physics professor emeritus and space physicist, dies at 85

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UC Berkeley Newscenter/Courtesy

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Space physicist and UC Berkeley physics professor emeritus Kinsey Anderson died June 11 in a Pinole care center after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 85.

Described as a lover of nature and a pioneer in space physics, Anderson was the husband of Lilica Anderson and the father of Danae and Sindri Anderson. At the time of his death, Anderson was surrounded by his wife, daughters and grandchildren.

Danae Anderson remembers her father as a loving person and grandfather, who was passionate about art, traveling, nature and hiking. Anderson also donated to environmental causes, such as bird habitat preservation in Minnesota.

“He had a very witty sense of humor and loved learning about everything,” Danae Anderson said. “People loved him because he had an element of joy. He has inspired people and lives on in a lot of people.”

Anderson was the director of the Space Sciences Laboratory from 1970 to 1979, and he researched extensively on using new instruments he designed to study how the sun’s solar wind interacted with the Earth to create the planet’s magnetosphere and form radiation belts.

Anderson also studied how the sun interacted with the Earth to create certain types of radiation, according to Anderson’s former student and colleague at UC Berkeley Robert Lin.

Originally from Minnesota, Anderson received his bachelor’s degree in physics at Carleton College in 1949. Anderson later earned his doctorate degree at the University of Minnesota under professor John Winckler. Following his undergraduate and graduate studies, he worked at the University of Iowa from 1958 until 1960, when he joined UC Berkeley as a faculty member.

“(Anderson) was very easy to get along with and had a knack of making his students excited about research,” Lin said. “He worked in the field at the start of the Space Age. He experimented with high altitude balloons and explored the plasma that filled space. His work was new and really unexpected.”

Anderson, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, received several awards over the course of his career including the Space Science Award from the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics and a NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. Upon retiring in 1990, Anderson received the Berkeley Citation for distinguished achievement and notable service to the university.

George Parks, another one of Anderson’s colleagues who studied under Anderson for his UC Berkeley postdoctoral degree, said Anderson was always quiet, kind and  unselfish.

“(Anderson) gave students a lot of opportunities to meet established people in the field,” Park said. “He wanted his students to become friends instead of competing with one another. He also threw parties and invited well-known people to them.”

According to Danae Anderson, a memorial service is currently being planned for September 9.

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