Memories of Neil Gehrels





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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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I could remark the many accomplishments of Neil over the years. I will limit to remember fondly the plain, but warm and inspiring sound of his voice when he would say to somebody: "Oh, this is really a good idea, let's do it". You really ended up convinced to "do it". Thank you Neil for the many small and big inspirations that you passed along in the years.

Added: February 9, 2017
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I first met Neil in 1985 when I joined the HEA Laboratory at NASA/GSFC to work with Elihu Boldt. Neil at once struck me with his sheer intelligence, calm humor, light touch, and sense of steady forward momentum, in both conversation and action. Neil had a brilliant and visionary scientist's mind, and was a very decent human being. His ability to see how theory could be tested by space science made him a pre-eminent representative of Goddard scientists at their typical best. Neil will be long remembered, and sorely missed, in our HEA community.

Added: February 9, 2017
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