Skip To Content

In Memoriam: Gerald W. Grams, 1938 - 2023

Mar 22, 2023

Gerald William Grams, Optica Fellow most known for his work in laser-based measurements of particulates and aerosols in the atmosphere and the effect of aerosols on the earth’s climate, passed away on 22 March 2023 at the age of 84 in Waseca, Minnesota.

Grams was born and raised in Janesville, Minnesota. He received his bachelor’s in Mathematics and Physics from Minnesota State University- Mankato (formerly Mankato State College) and later his PhD in Meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While in graduate school, he worked on a research project as an Aerospace Technologist at the NASA Electronics Research Center (ERC). After receiving his PhD, he continued researching at MIT until 1970.

After MIT, Grams joined the research team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. There he specialized in laser applications to atmospheric measurements and aerosol particles. Grams was a member of two NASA satellite teams at NCAR: the Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAM) and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE), launched in 1976 on Nimbus G and 1978 on Applications Explorer Mission B in 1978, respectively.

In 1976, he was named a Fellow of Optica (formerly OSA) for his work on developing lidar systems for detecting and measuring the optical properties of atmospheric aerosol particles. He was also active in technical groups, including Imaging Optical Design (FD) and Environmental Sensing (IE).

Grams accepted a professorship at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta for the School of Geophysical Sciences (now Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) the following year. He also taught a few Mathematical courses at the undergraduate level. In addition, he was involved in developing the school’s new atmospheric sciences program and holding a joint appointment in the GTRI Electromagnetics Laboratory’s Electro-Optics Division (EOSL) from 1985 through 1990. Grams also taught graduate courses at Clark Atlanta University’s Physics Department.

Grams was an active volunteer in several other scientific organizations. He served as Chairman and Past Chairman of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Committee on Laser Atmospheric Studies, the AMS Board on Women and Minorities, and the Committee on Meteorological Aspects of Air Pollution. Grams served six years on the National Research Council’s Advisory Committee for US Army Basic Research. He also continued advising NASA on its Environmental Quality, Weather, and Climate programs. He was a member of their nephelometer experiment that measured the properties of aerosol and clouds for the Jupiter Galileo Orbiter-Probe mission.

Grams has authored and co-authored over 40 publications. Once he retired, he ran a small business that provided swim meet management software and built an electronic device for signaling the start of swim meets. He also maintained a website featuring electronic equipment for sports enthusiasts.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

Image for keeping the session alive