August 24, 1928–April 14, 2004


JOSEPH W. CHAMBERLAIN was the son of a country doctor, and it was assumed that he, as well as his older brother Gilbert, would also become doctors. His first laboratory experience in comparative anatomy as a college freshman convinced him to switch to physics and then astronomy. His first job after obtaining his doctorate was at the Air Force Cambridge Research center and involved the study of the Earth’s upper atmosphere through spectroscopic observations of the aurora and the faint emissions from the night sky, called airglow. Interpretations of these data led to studies of the upper atmosphere from which they came, and then led to work on the interplanetary medium and the atmospheres of the other planets. Shortly after the dawn of the space age, he left the University of Chicago for the recently formed Kitt Peak National Observatory, taking the opportunity to initiate a program of sounding rockets and to assemble a group of observers and theorists who could, and did, become interested in studies of the upper atmosphere and atmospheres of other planets. Although Chamberlain really preferred to continue his own scientific work, his leadership helped this group (of which the present writer was a member) to expand into observations with telescopes and rockets and then to become involved in NASA’s planetary

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