“Gene represented to me the ideal physicist—brilliant and accomplished, personable, articulate, but also humble,” said Robert Rosner, the William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a longtime colleague. “I will never forget the pleasure he took in exploring a science problem, and his terrific physical insights which were then buttressed by his analytical skills. And one can never forget the encouragement he gave to everyone he interacted with—his own students and postdocs, and his colleagues. His passing indeed marks a great loss for us all.”
He retired from the University in 1995 but remained active in the field, publishing articles and books.
In 2017, NASA announced that it was naming its landmark solar mission after Parker as a recognition of his contributions to the field of heliophysics.
“It was so exciting to have the honor of taking Gene into the cleanroom at the Applied Physics Lab to introduce him to “his” spacecraft—and of course I said “Parker, meet Parker,” said Fox.
On the morning of Aug. 12, 2018, Parker was at Cape Canaveral with three generations of his family to witness the launch of his namesake Parker Solar Probe, which has since completed multiple revolutions around the sun and collected extraordinary data.
“The continued joy that Gene showed every time I shared new results from the mission with him—the way his eyes lit up at every new image or data plot—that was the true Gene, always striving to learn more about our universe,” Fox said.
Among Parker’s many awards are the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Kyoto Prize, the Crafoord Prize, the American Physical Society Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research and its James Clerk Maxwell Prize. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and was a fellow of the American Physical Society and a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society.
He authored four books: Interplanetary Dynamical Processes (1963), Cosmical Magnetic Fields: Their Origin and Their Activity (1979), Spontaneous Current Sheets in Magnetic Fields, with Applications to Stellar X-rays (1994), and Conversations on Electric and Magnetic Fields in the Cosmos (2007).
“We are devastated by the loss of my father, but we know his legacy spans not only our family and friends, but the international community of scientists around the globe,” said his son Eric Parker. “We extend our gratitude to everyone who has reached out with memories, for his colleagues over the years who worked with him to explore a subject which gave him much joy, and for the many people at NASA and the Applied Physics Laboratory who welcomed my father and gave him a profound gift—the chance to see the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, which moved him deeply.”
Parker was invited to attend a ceremony in Sweden next month to celebrate the Crafoord Prize, which he won in 2020. His family plans to attend the ceremony on Parker’s behalf.
Parker is survived by his wife Niesje, to whom he was married for 67 years, as well as brother Phillip; son Eric Glenn Parker (married to Susan) and daughter Joyce Marie Parker (married to Ed); grandchildren Owen Loh (married to Allison), Miles Loh (married to Michelle), and Nolan Loh (fiancée Hillary Wang); and great-grandchildren Lena and Elliott.