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Louis J. Lanzerotti was born and grew up in Carlinville, Illinois. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, he joined the technical staff of AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1965. He retired in 2002 and remained a consultant to Alcatel-Lucent through 2008. In 2002 he was appointed a Distinguished Research Professor of Physics in the Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has also served as an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at the University of Florida and a Regents’ Lecturer at UCLA.
His primary research interests have included space plasmas, geophysics, and engineering problems related to the impacts of atmospheric and space processes and the space environment on space and terrestrial technologies. Much of his research has involved close collaborations with telecommunication service providers on commercial satellite and long-haul (principally transoceanic) cables. His research has also involved geomagnetism, solid earth geophysics, and some oceanography. This research has been applied to the design and operation of systems associated with spacecraft and cable operations.
He has been principal investigator (PI) or coinvestigator on a number of NASA Earth, planetary, and interplanetary missions (ATS-1&3, IMP-4&5, Voyager 1&2, Ulysses, Galileo Orbiter and Entry Probe, and Cassini), and is currently a PI with instruments on each of the two spacecraft in the NASA Van Allen Probes mission launched in August 2012. He has also conducted geophysical research in the Antarctic and Arctic (beginning in the 1970s), directed largely toward understanding Earth’s upper atmosphere and space environments.
He has coauthored one book, coedited four books, is an author of more than 500 refereed engineering and science papers, and was founding editor of Space Weather: The International Journal of Research and Applications, published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He has eight patents.
He was nominated in 2004 by President George W. Bush to a six-year term on the National Science Board and chaired its Committee on Science and Engineering Indicators (2006–10). He also served on the NASA Advisory Council (1988–94) and on the Vice President’s Space Council Advisory Committee (1990-1992), was vice president of COSPAR (1994–2002), and chaired the Assessment Committee for the National Space Weather Program (2006), Fachbeirat of the Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie (1994–2006), governing board of the American Institute of Physics (AIP; 2007–15), and AIP Publishing board of managers.
He has been active on numerous committees of the National Academies. Among others, he chaired the Committee on Solar and Space Physics, Space Studies Board, Army Research Laboratory Technical Assessment Board, Science and Stewardship in the Antarctic, Decadal Survey of Solar and Space Physics, Committee to Assess the Safety and Security of Spent Nuclear Fuel, Committee on Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope, and Committee on Electronic Vehicle Controls and Unattended Acceleration.
In addition to the National Academy of Engineering (1988), he is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA; 1987) and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), AGU, American Physical Society (APS), and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is the recipient of two NASA Distinguished Public Service Medals, the NASA Distinguished Scientific Achievement Medal, AGU William Bowie Medal (2011; the highest award of the AGU), COSPAR William Nordberg Medal (2004), IAA Basic Science Award (2012), Innovators Award from the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame (2012), Space Weather Award from the American Meteorological Society (2014), AGU William Kaula Award (2016), and Antarctic Service Medal (1978). Minor Planet 5504 Lanzerotti recognizes his space and planetary research, and Mount Lanzerotti (74.50° S, 70.33° W) recognizes his research in the Antarctic.
He was elected to three consecutive 3-year terms (1982–90) on his local (Harding Township, NJ) school board, and served as chair of the Curriculum Committee (8 years) and vice president (5 years). He was elected to seven terms (1993–2014) on the township’s governing body and was mayor in 2007–09 and 2013.
He received his BS in engineering physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1960) and his AM (1963) and PhD (1965), both in physics, from Harvard University.