physicist and ecologist, professor emeritus of biology, University of Michigan, died at age 94 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His loving wife, and lifelong partner, Marian Penley Gates passed away in 2006. They enjoyed many activities together for over 70 years. They were married for 61 years. Dr. Gates was born in Manhattan, Kansas, on May 27, 1921. He was the adopted son of Frank C. and Margaret T. Gates. David received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the University of Michigan. His childhood was spent in Kansas and Michigan where his father was a distinguished plant ecologist with Kansas State University, with summers at the University of Michigan Biological Station. The family traveled all of the contiguous states during the 1920s and 30s. As a teenager David became an Eagle Scout with bronze, gold, and silver palms. During World War II he worked on the performance of the proximity fuse at University of Michigan and John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. He married Marian Francis Penley, his childhood sweetheart, June 3, 1944. Dr. Gates became associate professor of physics at the University of Denver from 1947 to 1955 where he worked on the radiation properties of the atmosphere and climate. In 1955-57 David and Marian were in London, England where David became liaison officer and director of the London Branch of the Office of Naval Research with the American Embassy. He exchanged scientific information with scientists throughout Western Europe. From 1957-64 he was consultant to the director and assistant chief of the Upper Atmosphere and Space Physics Division, Boulder Laboratories, National Bureau of Standards. He was head of the National Bureau of Statistics International Geophysical Year Program from 57-58. He held a University of Colorado professorship of natural history in 1964-65. During this period he established the discipline of biophysical ecology. In 1965 he left his beloved Colorado to become director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and professor of botany at Washington University, St. Louis, MO. He trained advanced students in biophysical ecology and simultaneously became an outspoken environmentalist. He was among the first to be concerned about greenhouse warming. He was particularly proud of having served as an advisor to the commissioner of the U.S. Public Health Service establishing criteria for the Clean Air Act passed by Congress. In 1971 Dr. Gates became professor of botany and director of the Biological Station, University of Michigan. He modernized the course program, raised funds for research, and private support for new buildings. He was particularly proud of the Andrew Mellon Foundation grant to support undergraduate, graduate, and post doctoral students working together to receive training as naturalists and ecologists. David was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Explorer's Club, New York, and the Optical Society of America. He received the Gold Medal for Accomplishments in the Field of Ecology, National Council of State Garden Clubs, the Distinguished Faculty Award, University of Michigan, and the Henry Shaw Medal, Missouri Botanical Gardens. From the early 70s - 90s, David served on the boards of the National Science Foundation, the Conservation Foundation and World Wildlife Fund, National Audubon Society, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the Cranbrook Institute of Science and others. He was the national president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. He served on the Board of Directors, Detroit Edison Corporation, Harland Bartholomew and Associates, and was the consulting corporate ecologist to General Motors Corporation. He was Distinguished Visiting Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Chairman of the Environmental Science Board, National Academy of Sciences and a member of the Panel on Science and Technology, Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Gates published more than fifty research papers and six books, including the definitive original text Biophysical Ecology. In the last years of his life he was honored when a new algal diatom species was named after him: Brachysira gatesii. David enjoyed sailing, alpine skiing, and traveling the world, including the South Pole, the far-north Arctic, all 50 states, and 55 countries. He visited the Ice Island T3 in the Arctic Ocean and the volcanic island, Surtsey, off Iceland. David is survived by his four loving children: Murray Penley Gates of Clio, MI, Julie Mary Gates of Pagosa Springs, CO, Heather Margaret Gates of Wilbraham, MA, and Marilyn Joan Gates of Subic Bay, Philippines. He leaves four grandchildren whom he adored: Colin and Myles Harnsgate, and Sarah Elise and Walker Field. Memorials in his name may be made to the University of Michigan Biological Station for the Marian P. and David M. Gates Scholarship for Non-Residents. A celebration of his life will be held at the University of Michigan Biological Station in July.
Published in New York Times on Mar. 8, 2016.