Cover photo for Ronald J. Reynolds's Obituary
Ronald J. Reynolds Profile Photo
1943 Ron 2024

Ronald J. Reynolds

May 17, 1943 — April 19, 2024

Madison

Ronald J. Reynolds of Madison, WI passed away peacefully at the age of 80 on April 19, 2024, after a brief illness.

He was born on May 17, 1943 in Chicago Heights, IL to James and Elsie (Gerhardt) Reynolds. Ron grew up in Steger, IL with his younger brother Terry. He graduated from Bloom High School in 1961 and attended the University of Illinois in Champagne, where he met his wife Carla (Strohmeyer) Reynolds. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received a PhD in physics. As a Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, astrophysics was both his career and his passion.

Ron got his start exploring the interstellar medium as a post-doc in the late 1960’s. He developed WHAM (Wisconsin H-Alpha Mapper) to study the interstellar medium in the Milky Way to answer important questions about how galaxies work. The observations were done at Pine Bluff Observatory in Wisconsin, Kitt Peak in Arizona, and Cerro Tololo in Chili. Ron uncovered a hidden feature of the galaxy, now called the ‘Reynolds Layer,’ an enormous swirling mass of ionized hydrogen gas. His work has helped astrophysicists better understand the structure of our galaxy and its components. In 2004 he was recognized by the American Astronomical Society, which awarded him the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize, given every two years for “research of an exceptionally creative or innovative character.”

In his retirement, Ron enjoyed spending more time with Carla, his wife of 57 years. They spent their winters in their Fort Myers Beach, FL home. Ron loved walking the beach, playing golf, and doing crossword puzzles. He was known for serving the very best Manhattans and Margaritas. He continued to expand his knowledge of all areas of science and politics. His greatest joy was spending time with his family.

Ron is survived by his wife Carla; his two daughters, Julie (Erik) Rivard of San Diego, CA, and Suzanne (Bo) Derheim, of Minneapolis, MN; his grandchildren, Sebastian Rivard, Phoebe Rivard, and Charles Derheim; and his brother, Terry (Amelia) Reynolds of Irvine, CA. His last day was spent in the loving presence of his wife and daughters. His family is grateful for the incredible support of the Oakwood Village Hospice team. Please consider donating to the UW-Madison Astronomy Department in honor of Ron Reynolds, or to your favorite charity.

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