[IAU logo]



[Karl Jansky at his antenna]
Jansky and his antenna. NRAO/AUI image

[Reber's Wheaton antenna]
Reber's Wheaton antenna. NRAO/AUI image

[Dover Heights]
Dover Heights. Photo supplied by Wayne Orchiston

[4C telescope]
4C telescope. NRAO/AUI image

[Ewen and horn antenna]
Ewen and the horn antenna, Harvard, 1951. Photo supplied by Ewen

[Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Cambridge antenna used in pulsar discovery]
Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Cambridge antenna used in pulsar discovery. Bell Burnell image

[Wilson, Penzias, and Bell Labs horn antenna]
Wilson, Penzias, and Bell Labs horn antenna. Bell Labs image


Bill Gordon at Arecibo
Bill Gordon at Arecibo, ca. 1961 (photo courtesy of Marshall H. Cohen)

William E. Gordon

Contributed by Marshall H. Cohen


William E. (Bill) Gordon was born in Patterson, NJ on 8 January 1918, and died on 16 February 2010. He studied mathematics at Montclair State Teachers College and received a BA in 1939 and an MS in 1942. During the war, and for a few years after, he studied tropospheric radio wave propagation, including long-range propagation via ducting, and via scattering on turbulence. He worked with Henry Booker at Cornell University, receiving a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering in 1953. In 1950 they published an important paper on turbulence in the troposphere and long-range propagation; this formed the basis for understanding "forward scatter" propagation that has had many important applications. Gordon stayed at Cornell and worked on troposphere propagation experiments with students, and until the mid-50s supervised the solar radio astronomy program at Cornell.

In 1958-59 Gordon conceived and designed the 1000-foot Arecibo radar, not for radio astronomy but to measure the properties of the topside ionosphere. It was dedicated in 1963. The exceptionally large size allowed for many advanced experiments in ionospheric physics, planetary radar, and radio astronomy. It has made many detailed solar system radar measurements, including the rotation rates of Venus and Mercury and imaging asteroids and the moons of the outer planets. It was used to find the two known orbiting pulsar systems, which are important for testing theories of gravitational radiation.

Bill did research in ionospheric physics at Arecibo for about 30 years, including the many years he spent at Rice University as a senior administrator: Dean, Provost, and Vice-President. He worked extensively with graduate students from both Cornell and Rice. Much of his work involved heating experiments, where a powerful HF wave (5-10 MHz) would illuminate the ionosphere and heat it near the local plasma frequency. The Arecibo radar would then study the heated volume, to measure density and temperature changes, motions, and the formation and decay of irregularities. Gordon and his groups worked closely with the plasma physics community in these efforts.

Bill received many honors for his work. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and a Foreign Associate of the Engineering Academy of Japan. He received the Balth van der Pol Gold Medal from URSI, the Medal of the American Meteorological Society, the Arctowski Gold Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, a medal from the USSR Academy of Sciences, and the Centennial Medal of the University of Sofia.


Modified on Tuesday, 09-Aug-2011 11:26:02 EDT by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)