PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
ohomen171
 
Comments: 0
Article views: 190
 
 
Latest Badges:


 
View all ohomen171's badges.
 

The Founder of SETI Leaves Us Much Too Soon

26 February 2014, 07:18

Thomas Pierson, 1950 – 2014

Donate to SETI Institute

Tom Pierson, who founded the SETI Institute and went on to become its Chief Executive Officer for most of the organization’s first thirty years, died on February 20 of cancer.  He had been on medical leave since 2012.

Under Pierson’s guidance, the Institute grew from a tiny, narrowly focused research center with a handful of employees to its current status: an internationally known organization that is home to more than 130 scientists, educators, and support staff.  While founded to conduct SETI searches, the Institute soon broadened its mandate to encompass all aspects of understanding the nature and prevalence of life beyond Earth.  

Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, Pierson studied aerospace engineering at the University of Oklahoma.  By the early 1980s, Pierson was working as a grants administrator at San Francisco State University where he helped adjunct Professor Charles Seeger obtain research funds for the new SETI project headquartered at NASA’s Ames Research Center, an hour’s drive to the south. Intrigued, he made a proposal to project participants Barney Oliver, John Billingham and Jill Tarter, suggesting a more efficient way to organize the NASA efforts. Pierson laid out the benefits – both organizational and financial – of setting up a non-profit entity, dedicated to the research.  In this way, the administrative and other costs associated with the project could be kept low, and more of the budgeted monies could go to the science.

Finding broad agreement with his idea, Pierson completed the paper work in the Fall of 1984, at which point the SETI Institute became a reality.

A decade later, the existence of this non-profit organization became crucially important in saving the nation’s largest SETI program. In 1993, a Senate amendment cancelled funding for NASA SETI, and the Institute stepped into the breach to keep the research going with private funding.  Over the course of the last two decades, these efforts raised approximately $90 million in private monies from donors such as Barney Oliver, Paul Allen, Gordon Moore, Bill Hewlett and David Packard, making possible the construction of the Allen Telescope Array, now used for the Institute’s SETI searches.  Today, monies won by its scientists in competitive solicitations generate approximately $17 million annually for astrobiology research.

For his extensive contributions to furthering the field of astrobiology, Pierson was recently recognized with NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor given by the agency to non-government employees. The citation reads: For distinguished service to NASA and the scientific community through leadership of the SETI Institute, supporting basic research and education dealing with life in the universe.

Tom Pierson was not a scientist, but he was as fervent about the Institute’s varied research agenda as any of its investigators.  He would exuberantly convey the excitement of SETI and astrobiology at any gathering, professional or amateur, formal or casual.  His management style was characterized by a fierce loyalty to the Institute’s employees, and an easy willingness to let them try new ideas.

The persona and personality of Tom Pierson continues to define the organization that he founded.  He was the touchstone for everyone who works at the SETI Institute: his enthusiasm, upbeat attitude, sense of humor, and humility are the organization’s DNA.  He was always pleased to let his employees take the credit for any of the Institute’s many accomplishments.  And yet those who had the great fortune to work here during the nearly three decades of his tenure know that their work and their rewards were made possible by Tom Pierson.  The SETI Institute remains a burnished legacy of the man who conjured its existence.

Tom Pierson is survived by his wife, Elyse, his daughter Elizabeth and son Thomas, and Justin, his son by a previous marriage.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Irvin Whitecomb
Why are our fuel prices so high?

Can someone please explain why the petrol price is so high if the price of oil has dropped by over half of what it cost. Read more...

32 comments 3030 views
Submitted by
Prenisha Naidoo
I will be proactive...

This letter is in response to articles on the death of baby Jamie Naidoo, We have the tendency to be reactive…we wait for something to happen, then suddenly we care, writes a News24 User. Read more...

0 comments 160 views
Submitted by
Christelle Delport
Transcendence

I recently watched the movie, Transcendence, and I once again realized how far people will go to deny or destroy that what they don’t understand. Read more...

19 comments 1107 views
Submitted by
Nunu
Ban Hunting Now!

This is far too emotional an issue, it should be dealt with realistically. There are risks to conservation if hunting is banned ... like it or not. Read more...

19 comments 1902 views
Submitted by
Brian Faul
The reality of a failed state

Hook line and sinker. That about sums it up for South Africa. We have been caught by the oldest trick in the book.  Read more...

7 comments 659 views
Submitted by
Andre Joubert
The Groenewald family I know

 Read more...

21 comments 500 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.