Elizabeth ROEMER

Obituary
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ROEMER, Elizabeth 9/4/1929 to 4/8/2016 Elizabeth "Pat" Roemer, emerita professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, passed away on April 8, 2016, in Tucson, Arizona. She had a special interest in comets and asteroids, and was noted as the recoverer of lost comets, calculating the return of 79 periodic comets while also computing the orbits of comets and minor planets. Pat specialized in the study of "astrometry" for which she made precise measurements of the movements and positions of celestial bodies. Her observations led to numerous significant cometary discoveries. She discovered the asteroids "1930 Lucifer" (1964) and "1983 Bok" (1975) and was a co-discoverer of Themisto, one of Jupiter's moons. Elizabeth Roemer was born in Oakland, California, on September 4, 1929, to Richard Q. and Elsie B. Roemer. Raised in Alameda, California, she was a valedictorian of her 1946 high school class, a winner of that year's national Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and already a serious amateur astronomer. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950 with a B.A. in astronomy as a Bertha Dolbeer Scholar. Pat's passion for teaching bloomed during her graduate studies at Berkeley when she taught adult extension classes in Oakland to help finance her tuition. She also worked as an assistant astronomer and lab technician at UC's Lick Observatory. After earning her UC Berkeley Ph.D. in 1955, she continued there for a time as an assistant astronomer and also conducted research at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory. In 1957 Pat became an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was there that she gained traction for rediscovering comets by using a high definition 40-inch atmospheric reflecting telescope to photograph and analyze comet nuclei. By 1965, Pat was named acting director and had an asteroid named "1657 Roemera" (1961) in her honor. She was hired by the University of Arizona in Tucson as an associate professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 1966 and was promoted to full professor in 1969. She headed the committee in 1972 that set up UA's Department of Planetary Sciences. Beginning in 1980, while remaining a UA professor, Pat served as an astronomer at Tucson's Steward Observatory. She retired in 1998, but continued her research on comets and asteroids. Pat Roemer was an exemplary member of the astronomy community and served on many astronomical commissions and organizations, including stints as president and vice president of the International Astronomical Union's Commission 6 and vice president of its Commission 20. She also served as chairman of the American Astronomical Society's Division on Dynamical Astronomy. In addition to her leadership in the field, she received numerous awards for her groundbreaking work; among those were the BA Gould Prize of the National Academy of Sciences, the NASA Special Award, and the Donohoe Lectureship of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Her achievements reflected her passion and love for astronomy. Besides her work, Pat also was passionate about the environment and was a generous supporter of many conservation organizations. She was an intrepid hiker and camper and enjoyed bird watching. Pat liked to travel and document her adventures via her love of photography. She was an avid stamp collector and left her collection to the Tucson Postal History Foundation. Pat Roemer was a brilliant and unique individual who will be greatly missed by all who knew her. She was predeceased by her sister, Alice Howard, of California and is survived by her niece, Carole Howard, and nephew, Jeffrey Howard, both of California. Arrangements by UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA WILLED BODY PROGRAM.


Published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 17, 2016