(Following is an expanded version of a memorial published in the Sept. 22, 2010, issue of PAW.)
Andrew Lange, a brilliant astrophysicist and former chair of physics, mathematics, and astronomy at Caltech, who was the first to prove that the spatial geometry of the universe is Euclidean or “flat” and that the universe will continue to expand forever, took his own life Jan. 21, 2010. He had been receiving treatment for depression. He was 52.
Andrew grew up in Easton, Conn., and was valedictorian at Easton High School. He matriculated at Princeton with the Class of ’79. He roomed with George Wooding III, Rainer Malzbender, Joe Libertelli, Jim Sturm, Dan Williges, John Williamson, Gilles Carter, Ted Maynard, Stephen Douglas, and Jason Fish. His warm and generous spirit was matched with a sense of humor and a deep curiosity about the universe. He studied with and greatly admired Princeton professors Dave Wilkinson, Jim Peebles *62, Stew Smith *66, and Marvin Goldberger.
As an undergraduate Andrew began to design and build instrumentation to study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) produced by the “Big Bang.” One summer, while still a student at Princeton, he worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center with cosmologist and Nobel Prize-winner John Mather. Mather said that in his free time, Andrew mastered general relativity by reading the 1,000-page tome Gravitation. “He was really an amazing talent already,” Mather said.
He did his graduate work at Berkeley, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1987, and quickly was hired as an associate professor. He became an associate professor at Caltech in 1993 and a full professor in 1994. In 2001, he was appointed — after his old mentor and subsequent Caltech president — the Marvin Goldberger Professor of Physics.
He was the “California Scientist of the Year” in 2003. Andrew shared the 2006 Balzan Prize with Paolo de Bernardis. The two also shared the 2009 Dan David Prize for Astrophysics. John Mather also indicated that many scientists today believe Andrew was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for co-leading the balloon-borne “Boomerang” experiment. Not only did Boomerang provide the proof of the flatness of space, it also substantiated the theory of inflation; predicted the relative proportions of matter, dark matter, and dark energy; and furnished data for the calculation of the age of the universe.
Andrew was a lead scientist of the recently launched Planck satellite that will map the CMB with even greater precision. He was also the senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Andrew is survived by his ex-wife, Dr. Frances Arnold ’79; a stepson, James Bailey; his sons, William and Joseph Lange; his parents, Alfred and Joan; a sister, Karen; and a brother, Adam.