In memoriam: Dr. John L. Climenhaga


Dr. John L. Climenhaga died on May 27 at home in Victoria. He was 91.He joined the faculty of Victoria College in 1949 as a teacher of physics. He was the first head of the physics department at the University of Victoria, a position he held until 1969, when he became dean of arts and sciences. He served as dean with fairness and openness through a turbulent period in the university’s history, before returning to teaching and research in 1972. Climenhaga was an effective and determined advocate for the creation of a university in Victoria during the 1960s, and, as head of physics, he was a major contributor to the creation of one of the finest physics research programs in Canada. He completed his PhD in astronomy at the University of Michigan in 1960 and was also an effective advocate for the creation of the astronomy program at UVic in 1965. He championed UVic’s participation in TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.

In 1972 and 1973, he spent a sabbatical doing research in Japan, South Africa and Poland, and his research collaboration with Dr. Jan Smolinski of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Astronomy continued for many years, until not long before Smolinski’s death a decade ago. Upon his retirement in 1982, the observatory on the roof of the Elliott Building was named the Climenhaga Observatory in his honour. After retirement, Climenhaga continued to teach at UVic for a dozen years and gave many popular talks on astronomy in the community.

On his 70th birthday, he was honoured by the International Astrophysical Union when it assigned the name Climenhaga to an 8-km asteroid (minor planet 3034), which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. In 1996, UVic granted him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science. Donations in his name may be made to the John L. Climenhaga Scholarship, which was created in 1972 to assist a senior UVic student in physics or astronomy, c/o the University of Victoria Development Office, PO Box 3060, Victoria, B.C., V8W 3R4.

Contributed by David J. Climenhaga, St. Albert, Alberta

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Keywords: in memoriam, physics

People: John L. Climenhaga

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