Memories of Neil Gehrels





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Neil had the great gift to make everyone feel welcome and valued within what were sometimes large collaborations. He treated you the same way whatever your status, and you knew that your views and interests were important to him. I worked him mostly via the Swift project, which he led with skill and tact. Swift is perhaps his greatest legacy, and will long be given as an example of how to get a project right from the start.

Added: February 10, 2017
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I met Neil 30 years ago and we shared many scientific adventures together with a warm friendship.

I knew I could always count on Neil's support and this was just great.

The last thing we did together was the organization of the Conference to celebrate Swift 10th anniversary.

He had accepted enthusiastically the idea I had proposed together with Gianpiero Tagliaferri to held the conference in Italy.

It took place at Rome University in Dec. 2014 and was a great success. The anniversary gift was a painting entitled Cosmic explosion which was donated to Neil by a young Italian artist. Needless to say, Neil was very happy as one can see from the interview published by Media INAF. Indeed we asked Media INAF to publish again this happy moment together with our note of mourning for Neil untimely death (see url on the side).


Added: February 10, 2017
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I started working with Swift in Italy in 2006 for my first post-doc, and I first met Neil the following year at a meeting in Amsterdam.

His enthusiasm was infectious and he was an exceptional leader for the Swift team. I can't really express how much his absence will be felt.


Added: February 10, 2017
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It is an immense loss for our scientific community. We have lost not only a great scientist and our best ambassador, but also a friend. Neil has helped us build the SVOM mission and has always shown unwavering support.

Amidst all his qualities, Neil was a first and foremost a visionary who showed us the path of the time domain astronomy. He will be remembered as an example for many generations of scientists, and in particular our youngest ones.

With every new burst we think of him, we miss him already...

Bertrand on behalf of the SVOM collaboration


Added: February 10, 2017
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Neil was a great science leader. I knew him for over 13 years as the Swift PI. He was inclusive and decisive, and his approach paid great dividends in the very substantial impact of the Swift mission. He was an energetic man who liked to say 'yes'.

His passing was announced formally at the Royal Astronomical Society in London, at a specialist discussion meeting on Timing and Spectroscopy in the New Era of X-ray Astronomy on the 10th of February; a minute of silence was held. Neil was made an Honorary Fellow of the RAS in 2016.


Added: February 10, 2017
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I didn't know Neil all that well, but he was very kind and generous with me when I worked with him on WFIRST for a few years. He went out of his way to spend time with me, listen to my concerns, and offer his ear and assistance and I will always respect and appreciate him.

Added: February 9, 2017
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I was shocked by the sudden loss of a prominent, energetic, optimistic and gentle scientist like Neil. His inspiring contribution to Swift and Fermi missions, and science in general will remain for ever. I express my deepest condolences to the Family on this big loss.

Added: February 9, 2017
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My lasting memory of Neil is how he graced every meeting and reunion he attended with his cheerful and constructive spirit and his natural charm. In his unpresuming way, he made others, regardless of their status, feel respected and encouraged. The world is a poorer place for the loss of Neil.

Added: February 9, 2017
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My first contact with Neil was by email, in which I asked him for an opportunity to work with him as a post-doc. His reply was very positive and soon after that I started my Goddard adventure. Neil had given me a chance to turn the course of my scientific life in a new and a positive direction; he was always very supportive. During a particular conversation I got very happy when he said of me, 'Eda works very well and has improved a lot in a short time'… I could not imagine hearing those words from a scientist of his standing. There are so many good things to say about Neil that the words are simply not sufficient… Very hard to believe that we lost him… Too early and too sudden. “Neil”, I’d like to believe that you are now looking for answers to new scientific questions somewhere in the universe, may you “Rest in Peace”.

Added: February 9, 2017
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Neil is the reason I am a NASA civil servant today.
He recruited me in 2005 to work on the Fermi mission science at GSFC. I still remember our first meeting in his office, back in Bldg 2. One of the very first things he told me was that "a Civil Servant serves the American public, first and foremost". And this is what he did - serve the astrophysics community, all his professional life - with dedication and sacrifice. His exemplary service is an inspiration to all of us.

I will always remember Neil. He might be gone, but he will not be forgotten. Ciao Neil...


Added: February 9, 2017
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