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On August 18, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe rocketed into space on a mission to mine new data on solar activity. The probe was named in honor of Eugene Parker and his extraordinary contributions to the field of heliophysics. On site with three generations of his family that day, the then 91-year-old Parker became the first person to witness the launch of their namesake spacecraft.


Born in Houghton, Michigan on June 10, 1927, Parker received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Michigan State University in 1948 and his doctorate from Caltech in 1951. He held instructor and assistant professor positions at the University of Utah before joining the University of Chicago Physical Sciences Division in 1955, where he spent the rest of his career.


In the 1950s, Parker proposed the concept of solar wind – an energetic stream of particles given off by the sun. This revolutionary theory faced skepticism from Parker’s contemporaries, though it was later proven to be correct. His discovery has reshaped our picture of plasmas and magnetic fields in space and the solar system. In 2020, he received the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy “for pioneering and fundamental studies of the solar wind and magnetic fields from stellar to galactic scales.” The legendary astrophysicist, who went on to unravel the complex physics behind magnetic fields in space and the dynamics of plasmas, died March 15, 2022, in Chicago.

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Faculty member for 40 years and namesake of NASA's Parker Solar Probe, known for his revolutionary theory of solar wind

Gene Parker at UChicago in 2017 (Photo by Jean Lachat).jpg

Photo Source: Jean Lachat, University of Chicago News

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