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Dr. Ralph Wuerker

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Dr. Ralph Wuerker Obituary
Wuerker, Dr. Ralph F
January 18, 1929 - October 29, 2012
Dr. Ralph F. Wuerker, a pioneer in laser physics and holography, died on Monday of multiple myeloma. He was 83. A workbench physicist for nearly 50 years, his love of science led him from work with the first lasers and early holography in Southern California, to research using LIDAR and liquid mirror telescopes, to the study of the ionosphere and the aurora borealis in Alaska. A graduate of Occidental College, Dr. Wuerker received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1960. He spent 25 years working in the aerospace industry, primarily at TRW in Redondo Beach. He continued his research as a chief investigator with UCLA's Plasma Physics Lab until his retirement in his mid-70s. His work led to more than 25 patents, most notably the patent on holographic interferometry, which he shares with two other researchers at TRW. He also did extensive research in mass spectrometry, superconducting plasma magnet systems and dust measurements in shock-wave environments, and he coauthored dozens of scientific papers. In 1985, he built the holocamera that flew on Spacelab 3. A longtime member of the American Physical Society and the American Optical Society, his work took him to such places as the missile test site at White Sands, N.M., the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and to art restoration labs in Venice, Italy. Born in Los Angeles in 1929, he attended L.A. High and raised a family with Joanne Scott, whom he married in 1953. They separated in 1976. He later married Anne McCarrick and they moved to Westlake Village in 1990. Ralph and Anne were avid backpackers, trekking the John Muir Trail, across England, through the Alps and also in Tibet. He loved gardening, horses, history and body surfing. He was also a solar-electric enthusiast who proudly used his home photovoltaics to charge his Gem electric car that he drove all over Westlake in his last years.
He is survived by his three children: Marie Ortiz (Andru Ortiz); Matt Wuerker (Sarah Stephens); Dr. Chris Wuerker (Kendall Marcus). Four grandchildren: Owen Wuerker; Taylor Wuerker; Jeanette Ortiz and Hana Wuerker. As well as Anne's children: Beth Burns (Alan Klingle); Dr. James McCarrick; Dr. Mike McCarrick (Tawney); Ruth Walmsley (Terry); Meg McCarrick (Sassan Haghgoo); Chris McCarrick (Lisbet); Jennifer McCarrick. And her 19 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 2:30 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Westlake Village. In lieu of flowers the family requests any memorial gifts be directed to either Reins of Hope ( http://www.reinsofhope-ojai.org/ ) or the church's Haitian clinic project ( http://www.haitihealthcare.org/ ).
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 2, 2012
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