Legendary UI space physicist Donald Gurnett dies


Legendary University of Iowa space physicist Donald Gurnett has died at 81.

Gurnett, a pioneering space scientist whose career as a student, teacher, and researcher at the UI spanned more than 60 years, died on Thursday.

Gurnett was raised near Fairfax, not far from the Eastern Iowa Airport. He entered the UI as a freshman in September 1957, the year the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Within a few months, he was working for James Van Allen, the famed UI physicist who discovered the harsh radiation environment around Earth that would bear his name.

Gurnett earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 1962, and his doctoral degree in physics in 1965. He joined the UI faculty that same year.

For more than 50 years, Gurnett taught at Iowa —a total of 111 undergraduate and graduate-level classes, ranging from General Astronomy to a Space Physics seminar.