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Katharine Blodgett Gebbie, AAAS Section P Chair, Dies at 84

Renowned astrophysicist and AAAS Chair of Industrial Science and Technology, Katharine Blodgett Gebbie has passed away. She was 84 years old.



Under the direction of Katharine Gebbie, NIST won 4 Nobel Prizes in Physics | Denease Anderson / NIST

Gebbie’s career in science in physics spanned six decades, the bulk of which came working at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Gebbie started her NIST career at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) in Boulder, CO in 1962, eventually moving to work at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD. After working in various physics divisions within the organization, Gebbie was appointed the founding Director of the Physics Laboratory in 1990, a position she held until 2012.

Under Gebbie’s watch, the organization produced an astonishing four Nobel Prizes in Physics and two MacArthur Fellowships. Gebbie herself was the recipient of numerous awards for her outstanding service to the field. Among many honors, she received the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, the Service to America Medal in 2002, and was elected a Fellow of the AAAS, the American Physical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to her contributions to the field of physics, Gebbie was also notable for her leadership and advocacy for women and minorities in science.

In December 2015 NIST honored the revered physicist by renaming the most advanced laboratory on NIST’s Boulder campus, the Precision Measurement Laboratory (now Katharine Blodgett Gebbie Laboratory Building), in her honor.  It was only the second time in the 114-year history of NIST that such an honor was given.

Dr. Gebbie had been a member of AAAS since 1978. She served on the section nominating committee for Physics from 2010-2013 and, most recently, was elected chair of the Section on Industrial Science and Technology in 2015, a position she also held from 2005-2008. The entire AAAS community mourns her passing.