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U Cosmic Ray Pioneer Gene Loh Dies at 72

May 24, 2006 — Eugene Loh, University of Utah distinguished professor emeritus of physics, has died of kidney cancer at age 72 after a career in which he pioneered the university’s world-renowned effort to determine the mysterious source of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, the most energetic particles in the universe.

Loh, who retained his university position while working for the National Science Foundation, passed away last Friday, May 19, at his home in Arlington, Va.

Below is an obituary submitted by his family for publication May 25 in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Also, a 2004 University of Utah news release at: deals with the Telescope Array, a new cosmic ray observatory under construction west of Delta, Utah, and that will serve as a successor to the Fly’s Eye and High-Resolution Fly’s Eye cosmic ray observatories at Dugway Proving Ground. The news release includes a description of cosmic rays and why scientists study them, as well as a brief history of cosmic ray research in Utah, including the original Fly’s Eye cosmic ray observatory project, which was led by Eugene Loh from 1977 until about 1994.


Obituary by the Loh family

Eugene Chen Loh, 72, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Utah, died of renal cancer on May 19 at his home in Arlington, VA.

He lived in Salt Lake City for 25 years and had relocated to Virginia to take a position at the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Loh joined the physics faculty of the University of Utah in 1975. He led the construction and operation of the world’s most powerful cosmic ray detector: the Fly’s Eye Project built in the Utah desert.

He became a full Professor in 1977 and enjoyed a nine year tenure as chairman of the physics department. For his pioneering work in ultra-high energy cosmic rays, the University conferred upon him the titles of Distinguished Researcher and Distinguished Professor. He was awarded the Governor’s Medal of Science and Technology in 1987.

He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and served as the Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Institute at the University of Utah until his departure for Virginia.

In 1998, Dr. Loh became rotating Program Director of Astrophysics at the National Science Foundation. He worked to establish particle astrophysics as a new and separate area of science within NSF, and was a tireless advocate for the field.

He retired from the University of Utah in 2002 and continued to serve as Program Director at NSF until shortly before his death.

At the age of fourteen, Dr. Loh emigrated to Virginia with his family from Suzhou, China in 1948 and later became a U.S. citizen. He received his B.S. degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While at MIT, he met and married Jocelyn Dow in 1958. They raised their three sons in Massachusetts, then Ithaca, NY, where Dr. Loh took a position at Cornell University, and finally settling his family in Salt Lake City.

Dr. Loh was tough as nails yet tender, equally comfortable conversing with scientists and politicians as he was with his infant grandchildren. He traveled the world but valued home and family above all else; he always thought big yet lived modestly.

Eugene Loh is survived by his wife, Jocelyn, three sons and daughters in law (Stephen and Margaret, Stanton and Adrienne, Stewart and Jeung-Hoi), five grandchildren (Kendall, Keith, Daniel, Julia and Madeline), sister (Evanne Hoehn-Saric), three brothers (Eddie, Edwin and Elwyn) and their families.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, at the Arlington Funeral Home, 3901 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1697, (703) 522-1441.