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Herbert Gursky *59

Published in Sept. 26, 2007, issue

Herbert Gursky, who had been superintendent of the Naval Research Laboratory’s space science division and chief scientist of its Hulburt Center for Space Research, died Dec. 1, 2006, of cancer. He was 76.

Gursky received a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 1959, taught at Columbia, and in 1961 moved to American Science and Engineering Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. By 1970, he had risen to vice president and director of its space-research division.

In the early 1960s, he was part of the team that discovered the sources of X-rays arriving from outside the solar system, through detectors placed on an experimental rocket that was launched and then monitored. In 1971, he and others first recorded an example of a black hole, which occurs when stars collapse.

Moving to Harvard in 1973 as an astronomy professor, Gursky was also supervisory astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1981, he joined the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where he most recently oversaw both experiments in solar physics and sophisticated instruments launched into space.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Flora, two sons, and three grandchildren.

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