Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

In Remembrance of Donald R. Moorcroft

Donald R. Moorcroft - In Remembrance

In remembrance of our colleague and friend Professor Emeritus Donald R. Moorcroft, we have a tribute below, co-authored by one of Don's former students Prof. Eric Donovan, of the University of Calgary, and ex-colleague Prof. Jean-Pierre St. Maurice of the University of Saskatchewan.

Donald R. Moorcroft

"It is with great sadness that we inform you that Don Moorcroft passed away on January 14.

Don was drawn to space physics after doing a summer internship with Colin Hines in Ottawa. He went on to an MSc and PhD at the University of Saskatchewan and in 1961 joined the Radioscience Laboratory at Stanford University for a postdoc. These years marked the beginning of his lifelong fascination with radar echoes from the ionosphere.  He was one of the first to zero in on plasma instabilities as the source of radio aurora. These were the early years of Incoherent Scatter Radar, and at Stanford Don was at the epicenter of an exciting new field. His early JGRs on radio wave scattering and the effects of ion composition on the ISR spectrum were foundational, and exemplified the type of profound yet careful work that characterized his entire research career. In 1963 he joined the UWO Department of Physics, where he remained until retiring in 2000.


Donald R. Moorcroft - Ice  Crystals on Study Window

Curious to the core, intelligent and clever, and a true "renaissance man", he endlessly dug into all kinds of questions. This made him shine as a professor and teacher... he taught courses in all areas of Physics, and was widely respected for his unusual breadth and depth that spanned the entire discipline. In the late 70s and early 80s he and a few UWO colleagues developed and delivered a second year independent study program.

Donald R. Moorcroft - The toilet paper problem

Faculty members today would recognize this as "the flipped classroom", but Don was three decades ahead of that bandwagon. He was centrally important in creating the unique intellectual atmosphere in the UWO Physics department in the 70s, 80s and 90s that made it "the best years of our academic lives" for the hundreds of us who were lucky enough to enjoy it. For this and many other reasons, he was a true innovator in education and pedagogy. He brought a sparkling sense of humor to all this as well. His now famous April 1st talk, where he bent all the laws of physics to prove that the earth was flat, was a point of particular pride for Don. In February 2014, he uploaded the slides and narrative of "Why the World is Flat by Don Moorcroft" to YouTube, and it has since been viewed more than 27000 times. Rightly so, he loved that. We love it too... he was a star!

Donald R. Moorcroft - building sculpture

Not surprisingly, his academic career was only a part of him. He was respectful and generous of spirit. He loved his family, nature, and the arts. Music was clearly a passion, one that he shared with his wife Regine and children Annemarie, Cecilia, and Marc. In later years he and Regine created their off-the-grid wilderness retreat on Manitoulin Island, and Don further developed his talents through photography. If you want to be inspired by how those around him experienced Don beyond just work, then perhaps watch the YouTube rendition of Bridge over Troubled Water that his daughter Cecilia posted last year for Don and Regine's 50th wedding anniversary, check out "Why the Earth is Flat", or do a web search for "Don Moorcroft photography".

Don Moorcroft was a quiet leader, and a great mentor. There are many of us, all around the world, and in all walks of life, for whom he was this and more. Maybe the best thing we can offer is that viewed against the backdrop of a life rich in family, culture, and creativity, his tenure as Department Head and his stellar professorial career seem but a footnote."

 [ed. note: See Don's videos on Vimeo] [Don's Western web page]

Don Moorcroft flower life cycle