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Research Scientist and Professor Clyde R Burnett Has Died

Nov. 25, 2020
Category: Obituary

Clyde Ray Burnett died peacefully in his mountain home near Rollinsville, Colorado on May 27, 2020, after a short illness. Clyde was born on December 23, 1923 in Rudd, Iowa and was raised on a farm near Nora Springs, Iowa. He attended Rudd High School and then enrolled in the University of Upper Iowa. He interrupted his academic work in order to join the World War II effort. He entered the meteorology training program at the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After completing his training, he became a commissioned officer with the 8th weather squadron of the Army Air Corps and flew 41 missions (1700 hours) across the North Atlantic as the meteorologist and weather reconnaissance officer on board.
Following the war, he returned to the University of Upper Iowa on the GI bill and graduated with a B.S. in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. He received his master’s degree (1948) and his Ph.D. (1951) in Physics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a well-known professor and research scientist at South Dakota State College (1950-1953), Pennsylvania State University (1953-1963), Princeton University (1957-1958 on leave from Penn State), and Florida Atlantic University (1964 until retirement). At Princeton, he participated in the early work on fusion, the central results of which are still manifest in the current fusion work. Clyde conducted the world’s longest continuous research on OH (hydroxyl) in the atmosphere (33 years), using an optical measurement with his specially designed Pepsios spectroscope. Most of his research was funded by the National Science Foundation. He conducted his research at different latitudes including in Boca Raton, Florida; NOAA’s Fritz Peak Observatory, Rollinsville, Colorado; Alaska; Truk Island, Micronesia; and Lauder, New Zealand.
He was a father to five children, grandfather to nine grandchildren, and great grandfather to eight great grandchildren. In the summers, he enjoyed camping and canoeing with his family and their collie dogs. He also took long canoe trips with friends. He liked hiking along the Appalachian Trail, in the Adirondacks, and in the mountains of Colorado, including Rocky Mountain National Park and Rollins Pass. He also enjoyed time in Everglades National Park, Corkscrew Sanctuary, and Everglades City in Florida. He was an avid birdwatcher and especially enjoyed the flocks of rosy finches that congregated on his mountain deck in winter. He was a tireless advocate for wildfire mitigation. In his later years, he volunteered at Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado and at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in South Florida.
In addition to many peer-reviewed research papers, he began writing fiction and non-fiction books during the last decades of his life—totaling seven—under the pen name of Alex Cook. He held a deep concern for the environment, with a special focus on educating the general public about the extreme threat of climate change. He wrote a monthly column, “Climate Conversations” for the Mountain Ear community newspaper in Nederland, Colorado and made keynote presentations to organizations in Colorado and Florida on climate change.
He is survived by four of his five children: Beverly O’Reilly (Mike) of Fernandina Beach, Florida; Pamela Van Scotter (Bruce Hurd) of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Janet Summers (Rick) of Deerfield Beach, Florida; and Craig Burnett (Alison) of Boca Raton, Florida; and all of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is also survived by his long-time companion, Leslee Schmitt of Black Hawk, Colorado. His daughter Marcia Montague preceded him in death as did his parents Neil Burnett and Grace Ella Aiken Burnett and his sister Gladys Burnett Daniels.
Contributions in his memory may be made to, The Union of Concerned Scientists, or the Audubon Society.

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