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1950 Youri V. Plokhenko 2024

Youri V. Plokhenko

November 16, 1950 — May 8, 2024


Youri V. Plokhenko died on May 8, 2024 in Madison, Wisconsin after a decade-long battle with multiple myeloma.  He was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in the region that would later become Ukraine.


Whether science informs art or art informs science, Youri was a Renaissance man to the core: he was broadly knowledgeable in science, math, the arts, music, history and athletics. Beyond compare. All of these interests converged to inspire his life, his work, his friendships.


With an education in applied mathematics and physics, Youri began his professional career at the Research Center Planeta, Roshydromet in Moscow Russia where his research focused on using instruments on environmental satellites to study geophysical parameters of the Earth-atmosphere system. 


Given his background in satellite remote sensing and his analytical, innovative approach to current scientific problems, colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center invited Youri to Madison in the 1990s, first as a visiting scientist and shortly thereafter as a staff scientist. He continued his research on remote sensing of atmospheres – research that sparked the interest of international colleagues. He is remembered as a scientist with great mathematical insight.


The arts and music were central to Youri’s identity. He loved the art of ancient civilizations.   And music, especially jazz and the blues. During his last day in the hospital, the ICU nurses placed an iPad near his head and softly played some of these tunes as he rested. 


Youri became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 2019, retaining his Russian citizenship. His grasp of world history was remarkable and his knowledge of U.S. history even more so. His friends and colleagues knew him to deliver passionate, informed lectures on nearly any aspect of history and its relation to current events. He was a student of history.


A well-rounded athlete, he enjoyed tennis, down-hill skiing and swimming. He especially loved swimming across Devil’s Lake just outside of Madison. Even during his illness, he continued to swim in a heated pool as long as he was able. 


Youri was a fiercely loyal, kind, generous and thoughtful friend. He was known to help other tenants move out of the apartment complex where he lived and was always ready to lend a hand, whether it was planting trees, building fences or firing up the barbecue at a picnic with friends. His grade school classmates – friends of more than 60 years – were inseparable companions, even though they lived time-zones apart. As recently as 2019, they gathered in Los Angeles for a reunion. 


Youri was thankful for the medical care he received at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, especially from his oncologist, Dr. Natalie Callander, and her team. He remained optimistic and positive throughout his long battle with cancer. He hoped that his participation in a recent clinical trial would improve the lives of future patients with multiple myeloma. 


In keeping with Youri’s wishes, his ashes will be scattered near Madison – a place that he frequently referred to as paradise.



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