Don Backer, 1943 – 2010

Don Backer (picture from Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill)
Don Backer (picture from Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill)

On Sunday I received some terrible news: that Don Backer, a professor in the UC Berkeley Astronomy Department, had collapsed outside his home and died, probably due to a heart attack. Compared to many of the old hands in the department, I only knew Don very briefly; but in the relatively short time that I’ve been at Berkeley, he became someone that I really looked up to and had tremendous respect for, both as a scientist and as a person. For someone his age (which wasn’t young, but was definitely far younger than it should have been) he was amazingly active on all fronts: pushing genuinely exciting research, performing valuable service for the department and the radio community, and being a great mentor to a younger generation of radio astronomers, of which I’m fortunate to count myself as a member. I’ll miss him a lot.

(The Nature blog published a short obituary for Don here.)