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William M. Kaula; Planetary Physicist at UCLA

April 08, 2000

William M. Kaula, 73, former UCLA professor of geophysics and one of the leading planetary physicists of the last four decades. The author of two influential books, "Theory of Satellite Geodesy" and "Introduction to Planetary Physics," he explored tidal evolution, chaotic dynamics, the formation of the solar system and the origin of the moon. He was a frequent participant in NASA missions, as team leader for the laser altimeter on Apollos 15, 16 and 17 and team member for the radar and gravity experiments on the Magellan spacecraft. Born in Sydney, Australia, Kaula attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after immigrating to the United States. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in military engineering in 1948. After military service and studies at Ohio State University, he received a master's degree in geodesy in 1953. He joined the UCLA faculty as a professor of geophysics in 1963, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. At UCLA, Kaula also served as chairman of the department of geophysics and space physics and later headed the department of earth and space sciences. He was the first graduate of West Point to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences since George Squires, chief of the Signal Corps, in 1919. On April 1 of cancer.

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