Notable Science Losses from 2018

As humans, we have to deal with loss. It is, unfortunately, a fact of nature. It may be a direct loss of a family member or a friend. It could also have been an indirect loss, someone that has had an impact on our lives, whether we knew it or not.

The science community lost quite a few notable scientists and science supporters in 2018. I wanted to call out a few that had impacted me, in one way or another.

Feel free to comment on a scientist or supporter that you would like to acknowledge.

Stephen Hawking (1942–2018)

Renowned theoretical physicist and science communicator, despite his having ALS, died in March of 2018 at the age of 76. I remember buying his book, A Brief History of Time when it first came out as I entered college. Oddly enough I didn’t read any of his other books but still followed him. He was a true science superstar. I was really excited when he accepted the appointment of research chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Just so happened to be in my hometown, at the University of Waterloo. He made some prime time cameos on The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory and Star Trek. There was also a feature-length movie loosely based on his memoir Travelling to Infinity.

Paul Gardner Allen (1953-2018)

While not a scientist he was certainly a benefactor to the science community and an enthusiast. A consummate philanthropist he founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Allen Institute for Cell Science and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. He gave away more than 2 Billion dollars, part of which went towards the advancement of science. Back in the early 90’s I worked as a Program Manager at Microsoft and had the pleasure of speaking with him. He has a plethora of commendations, awards, and recognitions to go along with several honorary degrees and doctorates. His legacy lives on in the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Lawrence Gilman Roberts (1937-2018)

You may not realize it but Larry Roberts impacted your life too. He worked at A.R.P.A. (Advanced Research Projects Agency). He and his team are credited with developing the ARPANet using early TCP/IP. The ARPANet was a network that connected military and educational institutions in order to share computing resources and data. It was a precursor to what we use today and was eventually replaced the Internet. That’s the global connection to the impact that Larry Roberts, et al, had on all of us. ARPANet was more of an Intranet but definitely got the ball rolling on the “Intergalactic Network” of computers (The term coined by MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider.)

Leon Max Lederman (1922-2018)

Lederman was an American experimental physicist and is most notably known for his coining of “The God particle” in the book of the same title. As we all know the nickname was given for the Higgs boson particle. He has many honours and awards including a laureate in physics. He was a professor at Columbia and Illinois Institute of Technology and did some work at CERN.

Koko the Gorilla (1971-2018)

Koko was a female western lowland gorilla born at the San Francisco Zoo. Koko’s caregiver, Francine Patterson, taught Koko a modified version of American sign language she called GSL (Gorilla Sign Language). It was reported that she knew around 1,000 signs and understood around 2,000 English spoken words. I know, neither a scientist or a supporter. I thought Koko deserved a mention as she opened doors to some animal psychology. Did she actually comprehend or was it complex mimicry? The videos she is in are uncanny and fascinating.  

Nancy Grace Roman (1925 -2018)

Known as the “Mother of Hubble”, Nancy Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA. She was an astronomer and was the first chief of astronomy in NASA’s Office of Space Science. She was instrumental in the development of the Cosmic Background Explorer used to confirm the Big Bang Theory. She was also featured in LEGO’s Ideas Women of NASA set.

My boys and I have always been fascinated with the stars. Looking at them through a telescope is a great way to spend time together. The bigger the telescope the better.

We had a great time with this telescope. This is my middle son observing sunspots through a robotic state-of-the-art 24-inch deep space reflector. The Director of the observatory is a cousin so we had a lot of observation time.

Be sure to comment on scientists or supporters that we lost during 2018 that may have impacted you in one way or another.



Stephen Hawking Photo – NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Miles Harris [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Larry Roberts Photo – Unknown [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Leon M. Lederman Photo – ENERGY.GOV [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nancy Roman Photo – NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Main Image: Pixabay

About jasonbu 56 Articles
I'm a wannabe extrovert and an Interweb nerd who has spent the past 25+ years in the software industry. My first 10 years at Microsoft. I've served in the Canadian Military; I'm a humanist; I love coffee; love all things science and love spending time with my family.