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Jerry Nelson, 1944-2017

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the news that Jerry Nelson passed away on Saturday, June 10, in his sleep.

Jerry was the father of the Keck telescope – inventor of the segmented mirror primary, project scientist, leader in adaptive optics and much, much more. He was pivotal to our success, but more than that, he was the mentor to generations of scientists and engineers in the field. He was recognized internationally: member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the Kavli and Heinemann prizes amongst many other honors.

More importantly, Jerry was at the heart of our very own community here at the Keck Observatory. He defined the spirit that is Keck: skilled, smart, dedicated; never dismissive of those who knew less and patient in teaching them; above all, caring and always generous with his time and friendship. Jerry held up the beacon of excellence, showing us that together we could achieve more than we ever dreamed.

We have lost Jerry, but his inspiration and humanity will live on.

Hilton Lewis,
Director of W. M. Keck Observatory

Scientific American: A Personal Tribute to Jerry Nelson, by Hilton Lewis

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