Edward Key Lloyd Upton

March 23, 1932 - July 30, 2013
Edward Key Lloyd Upton, the great-great-great grandson of Francis Scott Key and a Harvard-educated astronomer who taught at UCLA and was, at one time, the Associate Director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, died Tuesday, July 30th after a long battle with cancer. He was 81.
Dr. Upton was born on March 23, 1932, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1953 and served with the Army Map Corps in the South Pacific before getting his doctorate degree from the University of Michigan.
While at UCLA, Dr. Upton received both the University's Undergraduate and Graduate Distinguished Teaching Awards in a single year. Dr. Ed Krupp, the current Director of the Griffith Observatory and a former student of Dr. Upton's, recalls him as a gifted teacher who was "imaginative, luminous, and entertaining." He could explain the cosmos in terms of a sorority, the LA freeways, or whatever his audience could relate to--with an excitement and sense of poetry that made not just sense, but art, of the heavens.
Behind the poetry, there was also brilliant science. In 1977, Dr. Upton won the Hughes Aircraft Griffith Observer Science Writing Contest with, as Dr. Krupp describes it, "a completely original, disciplined, prescient, and compelling analysis of the Leonid meteor shower that laid down the foundations for the predictions of the 1999 Leonid storm, which occurred as he predicted."
Dr. Upton's passion and enthusiasm extended beyond the stars, however. He played the baritone horn and was an enthusiastic member of both Marblehead's Okommakamesit Veterans Fireman Association band and the Harvard Band (where he helped develop the "fake Latin" version of the Harvard fight song). He also once climbed Mt. Washington with friends to salute the sunrise with a brass fanfare and rigged a baritone mouthpiece to a length of garden hose to create a "French Hose" that he'd play at LAX to welcome friends because he loved the acoustics of airport waiting areas.
He was a vigorous and engaging storyteller, a charismatic song and activity leader for the Boy Scouts, and an enthusiastic participant in any mischief or fun that his son, nephews, or nieces might concoct. That sense of childhood glee and wonder never left him.
Dr. Upton is survived by his son, Frederick Scott Upton, his sisters, Lane Upton Serota and Nancy Ann Upton Wallace, three nephews: David Wallace, Ron Milam and David Milam, and four nieces: Gail Wallace, Lane Wallace, Hannah Serota and Pamela Serota Cote, as well as five grand-nephews and nieces: Kern, Tyler, Kinana, Ben, and Miles.
A memorial service for Dr. Upton will be held on Monday, August 12, 2013 at the Griffith Observatory's Sunset Terrace, at 6:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to to the Harvard Band, 617-496-BAND, www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hub.

Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 9, 2013