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Essay Contest: Physics in 2116

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Robert L. Carovillano

August 02, 1932 —  October 15, 2015

Dr. Robert Carovillano, age 83, an internationally-recognized theoretical space physicist and long-time resident of Needham, Massachusetts and the Boca Raton area of Florida, died suddenly on October 15, 2015 in Delray Beach, Florida. Robert is survived by his daughter Deborah (husband Edward) of New Hampshire and Florida, son David (wife Amy) of Texas, and daughter Rebecca (husband Tracy) of Pennsylvania; as well as eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters Rae (California) and Geraldine (New Jersey). He is predeceased by his former wife, Mary Ann (Johnson), to whom he was married for more than 30 years.

Robert was the son of first-generation Italian immigrants and the first in his family to attend college. He received his B.S. degree from Rutgers University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in theoretical physics from Indiana University. He joined the Boston College faculty as an Assistant Professor of Physics in 1959, was promoted to Professor in 1966, and chaired the Department of Physics from 1969 to 1982. He retired from Boston College in 2003. Robert served on and sometimes chaired numerous advisory committees for the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). He was an officer and trustee of the Universities Space Research Association, where he twice served as chairman of the Council of Institutions, and an officer of the American Geophysical Union. Robert was principal investigator on many research grants and contracts funded by the NSF, NASA, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force. He was a visiting senior scientist at NASA Headquarters in the Office of Space Science where he was responsible for the supervision of several programs and research initiatives in space physics. He served on NASA’s Space Science Advisory Committee and reviewed numerous space shuttle and satellite projects. He was a prodigious scholar who published numerous articles and books on the magnetosphere, ionosphere, solar wind, and related topics. Despite an illustrious academic career, he considered his greatest accomplishment to be his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, of whom he was immensely proud.

Robert overcame infantile paralysis (polio) to become an enthusiastic squash and tennis player for decades. He was an avid “armchair athlete” for his entire adult life, and was known to root for the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants (football) and Patriots with equal gusto. His stories of playing stick ball in the streets of Newark as a child and watching the Yankee greats were captivating to his family and friends. He and Mary Ann were socially active in Needham, enjoying lively games of bridge, gourmet dinners, and parties with their extensive group of friends. Vociferous in his opinions, charming, handsome and proud, he was the very embodiment of the supposition that any obstacle could be overcome given hard work and determination. Robert was greatly admired by all who knew him, and will be dearly missed. A private memorial service will be held at a later date.

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Submitted by: Rebecca Carovillano

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