Albert Roach Hibbs
|Born||19 October, 1924|
Akron, Ohio, USA
|Died||24 February, 2003|
Pasadena, California, USA
|Education||California Institute of Technology (PhD)|
University of Chicago (MSc)
|Known for||"Voice of JPL" in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s|
|Awards||Peabody Award (1963)|
Thomas Alva Edison Foundation National Media Award (1962, 1965)
NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1984)
|Fields||Mathematics, Physics, Science Communication|
|Institutions||NASA, JPL. U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA)|
|Doctoral advisor||Richard Feynman|
Albert Roach Hibbs (October 19, 1924 - February 24, 2003) was a mathematician and scientist best known as "The Voice of JPL" due to his gift for explaining difficult science in lay terms. He helped establish the Space Science Division at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1960 and served as its first chief. He was the systems designer for the USA's first satellite, and established the framework for exploration of the solar system through the 1960s. Hibbs qualified as an astronaut in 1967 and was slated to be a crew member of Apollo 25, but with the Apollo program ending at 17 he did not get to the Moon.
Hibbs earned bachelor's degree in Physics under the Navy's V-12 program at Caltech in 1945 and a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1947. He went on to earn a PhD in Physics from Caltech in 1955 with a thesis titled "The Growth of Water Waves Due to the Action of the Wind". His advisor was Nobel physicist Richard Feynman. Hibbs became close friends with Feynman and coauthored the textbook "Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals" (McGraw-Hill, 1965) with him.
Hibbs joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in 1950. He became head of JPL's Research and Analysis Section and in this role he was the systems designer for America's first successful satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. After NASA took over JPL in 1958, Hibbs worked to establish the framework for planetary missions for the next decade.
In 1960 Hibbs was placed in charge of forming and leading the Space Science Division at JPL. As the division became successful Hibbs emerged as the "Voice of JPL".
From 1962 to 1967 Hibbs left JPL to work on special assignment as staff scientist for the Arms Control Study Group (ACSG) of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), studying how arms-control treaties could be monitored from space.
From the late 1960s to the 1980s he became the authoritative source of information on JPL missions including the Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon; the Mariner missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury; the Viking missions to Mars; and the Voyager missions to the outer planets.
As a five year old, Hibbs decided that he wanted to go to the moon. He qualified as an astronaut in 1967 despite being 7 years over the age limit, and he was slated to be a crew member of Apollo 25. The Apollo program ended at 17, denying him his dream. He remained philosophical about the disappointment saying "Even though I didn't make it to the moon, my machines did."
Awards and honors
Hibbs hosted and produced several radio and television programs for adults and children during which time he won a Peabody award for the children's series "exploring" as well as two Thomas Alva Edison Foundation National Media Awards. He was also given NASA's Exceptional Service Medal "especially for his outstanding achievements in explaining the complexities and significance of space exploration to the general public via radio and television." and the NASA Achievement Award.
As a prominent member of the Southern California Skeptics, Hibbs was awarded a Fellowship from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
The discoverer of an asteroid named it 2441 Hibbs after Al Hibbs and his wife Marka as an acknowledgement of the role they played in introducing her to Space Science at Caltech.
JPL in memoriam video
In 1947, Hibbs and Roy Walford took time off from graduate school and medical school respectively, to go to Reno and Las Vegas to beat the casinos at roulette. Studying biases in the roulette wheels, they made profits variously estimated between $6,500 and $42,000. According to Hibbs himself, during an episode of You Bet Your Life on which he was a contestant and won $250, he made "about $12,000" from his roulette exploits. The pair used the profits to spend over a year sailing around the Caribbean aboard a 40-foot sailboat, Adonde.
Hibbs was a member of the project review committee for Biosphere 2 from 1987 to 1992 and was involved in the Geosphere Project from 1989 to 1995 as a member of the Eyes on Earth Board of Directors. In his retirement, Hibbs pursued underwater photography at sites all over the world.
Hibbs enjoyed making kinetic sculpture as a hobby and was fascinated by miniaturised, independently operating machines—a field where he once again collaborated in a well known idea-experiment of Feynman's. According to Feynman, it was Hibbs who originally suggested to him (circa 1959) the idea of a medical use for Feynman's theoretical micromachines (see nanotechnology). Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to (as Feynman put it) "swallow the doctor".
Hibbs first married in 1950, to Florence Pavin, with whom he had two children. He was widowed in 1970. In 1971 he married Marka Oliver. He died in February 2003 from complications following heart surgery at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California.
- "Al Hibbs (1924-2003) Scientist, "The Voice of JPL"". NASA Science. Planetary Science Communications team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
- Pickering, William H (2004). "Albert Roach Hibbs". Physics Today. American Institute of Physics. 57: 68–69. doi:10.1063/1.1650081.
- "Albert Roach Hibbs". Mathematics Genealogy Project. Department of Mathematics, North Dakota State University. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- Hibbs, Albert. "The growth of water waves due to the action of the wind". Caltech THESIS. California Istitute of Technology. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- "Robert R. Hibbs Papers: Finding Aid". Online Archive of California. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- "Hibbs, Albert R., 1924-2003". snac. Social Networks and Archival Context. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- "Al Hibbs (1924–2003):obituary". Caltech. Archived from the original on June 24, 2010.
- "Science Quotes by Albert Hibbs". Today in Science History. Todayinsci. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- "In Memoriam: Al Hibbs". NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
- Schmadel, Lutz D., ed. (2007), "(2441) Hibbs", Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, Springer, p. 199, doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_2442, ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7
- "How to Win $6,500 - Two student theoreticians invent system for beating roulette wheel". Life Magazine. December 8, 1947. p. 46. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- Maugh, Thomas H. II (May 1, 2004). "Roy Walford, 79; Eccentric UCLA Scientist Touted Food Restriction". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- You Bet Your Life #58-18. January 22, 1959. Event occurs at 3:08.
- Richard P. Feynman (December 1959). "Plenty of Room at the Bottom". Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010.