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Preston F. Gott (1919-2002)

Preston F. Gott, Professor Emeritus of Physics and former Director of the Observatories at Texas Tech University, died 13 January 2002 after a bout with Cancer. Mr. Gott was born 21 November 1919 in Waxahachie (Ellis County) Texas. He received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. His first wife, Edna Maynard Gott, passed away in 1986; their two children are Eugene Willard Gott and Edith Suzanne Gott. After his retirement from Texas Tech University in 1989, he married Orene Whitcomb Peddicord, M.D. on 14 May 1991 and they lived in Odessa, Texas.

Preston joined the Texas Tech University (TTU) faculty in 1948 and taught physics and astronomy there for 41 years, before retiring in 1989. He was responsible for starting astronomy teaching within the Physics department. He also developed, and taught for many years, a very popular, hands-on photography course in that department.

It is due to Preston's persistence and determination that TTU has two astronomy observatories devoted to teaching. Because of his efforts, the on-campus observatory, Igor, was donated to TTU by White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico. He is also primarily responsible for obtaining the land, equipment and construction funds for an off campus observatory. In 1991, the TTU Board of Regents named the latter facility the Preston F. Gott Skyview Observatory. He also developed a private Mountainside Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.

Until recently, Preston was listed as a Senior Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA where he worked several summers on the moon and mars lander projects. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked several summers at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. In that period, he was also a consultant and frequent Visiting Scientist at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Preston was a very generous donor to the Department of Physics and the Texas Tech University. He endowed the Gott Gold Tooth Scholarship Award in Physics and also endowed a scholarship in the Women's Studies Program, in memory of his first wife, long time TTU Economics Professor Edna Gott. He was a true gentleman and a friend to all who knew him. He will be sorely missed. He is survived by his wife, Orene, and his children, Eugene and Suzanne. His stepchildren are Ruth, Benita, and Diana (who pre-deceased him).

Photo courtesy of Orene Peddicard-Gott

Obituary written by: Charles W. Myles (Texas Tech University)

BAAS Citation: BAAS, 2003, 35, 1461

SAO/NASA ADS Bibcode: 2003BAAS...35.1461M