It is with great sadness that we report Professor Emeritus of Astronomy Theodore “Ted” Fritz passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico in May 2020. Ted was an excellent colleague and will be missed.
Ted was born and raised in East Tennessee, and he was proud of his Tennessee heritage. If you told someone that Ted was from Tennessee, he would quickly correct you by saying “East Tennessee.” He went to undergraduate college at Virginia Tech and studied physics in graduate schools at the University of Iowa, where he joined the research group of Jim Van Allen. He was one of a cadre of stars-to-be working for Van Allen, developing flight hardware in the early days of space physics that included Tom Krimigis, Stan Shawhan, Don Gurnett, and Lou Frank. He soon learned the art of designing solid-state detector systems along with W. Fillius, T. Krimigis, and T. Armstrong, and flew his first on OGO-4 that performed comprehensive spectral measurements of protons trapped in Earth’s outer radiation zone.
Ted earned his Ph.D. in 1967 and went on to postdocs at the NRC in Ottawa and NASA/Goddard, followed by research positions at the NOAA/ERL/Space Environment Laboratory in Boulder, where he helped design the Galileo EPD instrument that was flown to Jupiter and then moved to the Space Science and Technology Division at Los Alamos. Following this, for 23 years, he was a Professor at Boston University in the Department of Astronomy with joint appointments in the Departments of Mechanical and Electrical/Computer Engineering. Ted was recruited to the University with the specific goal of introducing a space-based component to the strong ground-based science being done at BU. He retired from teaching in 2015 and, as Professor Emeritus, maintained connections with researchers in the Center for Space Physics.
Ted was by training and inclination a hardware developer and was PI and Co-I on more flight instruments than can be listed here. Some notable examples include several early energetic charged particle detectors on Injun, Explorer, and DOD spacecraft. Later, he developed instruments for the POLAR, Viking, CRESS, Cluster, and DSX missions.
Shortly after arriving at BU in 1992, Ted embarked on a long-term career goal to build complete scientific spacecraft with the work done by graduate and undergraduate students. This grew into the popular student-focused BU-SAT program. Ted was an expert in attracting funding from multiple sources within BU, the Air Force, and NASA—supporting at times 30 to 40 students over the summer working on BU-SAT developments. These endeavors led to several small satellite projects including ANDESITE, CuPID, and student flights on microgravity airplanes to test the hardware deployment. Ted was in his element working with legions of students, offering advice while giving them a lot of freedom to plan the instruments and missions. As a supervisor to Ph.D. students, he provided insight into research but also cared deeply about them improving as people.
He routinely encouraged his students to form strong friendships and relationships with others. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and he provided a spark to his research group, the student satellite program, and overall to the Center for Space Physics. While all of this was going on, Ted became an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and held season tickets for all BU Hockey games.
Ted is survived by his wife Sally, son Greg in Massachusetts, and daughters Deborah in Santa Fe and Kimberly in Seattle.
Provided by John Clarke, Michael Mendillo, and Brian Walsh, Center for Space Physics, Boston University, and Tom Krimigis, at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory