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In memoriam: Eugene Turner, SPIE Past President and Fellow, recipient of the Directors' Award

10 March 2017

Eugene B. Turner | 1970
Eugene Turner
SPIE President 1969-1970

SPIE Fellow and Past President Eugene Turner, longtime prominent staff member of the Aerospace Corporation, passed away on 28 February in Torrance, California.

"Gene" as he was known, received his BS in Physics from Montana State College in 1944 and then served two years in the US Army Signal Corp. He earned an MS in Physics in 1950 and his PhD in Physics in 1956 both from the University of Michigan. Before beginning his long career with the Aerospace Corporation in 1960, he was employed with Space Technology Laboratories and the Ramo Wooldridge Corporation.

Dr. Turner worked in plasma physics, spectroscopy, lasers, and holography. Past SPIE President, Chuck DeMund, remembers that, "Gene was one of the early SPIE Members who had their hands in the original society world, high-speed photo-instrumentation. He was a key player in the Society's growth." Even before he began his work as an Officer of the Society, he was recognized for his significant service. In 1965 the Board of Directors awarded Turner a service award certificate, the Director's Award, which he shared with Edward E. Rich. He was later named a Fellow of the Society in 1981.

In his term as SPIE President from 1969 to 1970, Turner helped launch the Corporate Membership program at SPIE. Then called Institutional Membership, Turner understood that his own employer, the Aerospace Corporation, and other companies, in his own words, "support professional societies through such memberships, and the procedures for requesting this support are well established." Aerospace Corporation's first use of Institutional Membership ushered in an era where companies that support the objectives of the Society could "contribute to the common fund of scientific and technological intelligence," to the mutual benefit of both organizations.

DeMund, who served as Vice President of Symposia during Turner's presidency notes, "We have lost a fine gentleman who contributed much in SPIE's formative years." In remembering Turner's character, DeMund shared this memory: "One day in about 1976, a couple of years after I was SPIE President, Eugene Turner quietly took me aside and gave me his Past President's pin. Austerity had required that such trinkets not be produced at the time and I had never seen or heard of the pins. He insisted that I take his. I wear it at SPIE functions to this day."

A memorial is planned for Turner, who is survived by his wife, Shirley and son, Charles, on Easter Monday.