FRYE, Glenn M. (1926 - 2007)

Glenn M. Frye, was a professor of physics emeritus at Case Western Reserve University, whom devoted his life to the detection and identification of cosmic rays at the top of the atmosphere, mostly using balloon-borne detectors.

He was born in Ithaca, Michigan in 1926. In 1950, after obtaining his doctorate at the University of Michigan, he joined the nuclear physics research staff at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) performing studies of the interactions of neutrons with light nuclei using emulsions. Such measurements provided important information on the behavior of neutrons in reactors and weapons. In 1958 he published a paper which was among the first to present evidence for the annihilation of antiprotons with nucleons, after exposing emulsion stacks at the Bevatron proton accelerator at University of California, Berkeley.

That same year at LASL , participated with Dr. Fred Reines for the first time in a cosmic ray experiment. Two years later while Reines was in charge of the Case Institute of Technology physics department, he invited Frye to join it. That was a fundamental change in Frye's career as he devoted the next three decades to cosmic ray studies and never left Case.

The first years at Case Tech were devoted to the development of detectors based on spark chambers which were launched under balloons from the Scientific Balloon Facility built by NCAR in Palestine, Texas. The first flights carried out there in 1965 were to search for gamma radiation in the 30 to 500 MeV range coming from discrete point sources. Along with a team from the University of Melbourne, in 1968 obtained and published the first evidence of these radiations. Later flights also revealed that high energy gamma radiation was emited from the direction of the Crab Nebula, and, much more significantly, that it's origin was in fact from a pulsar. During these years also he performed measurements of high energy electron flux.

Other experiments by Frye's team that involved more sophisticated detection schemes, allowed to collect valuable data on energetic gamma rays emitted by a dozen other sources. Thus during the 1970's and 1980's, they employed detectors with improved sensitivity and directionality to determine the energy distribution of cosmic gamma radiation. Teaming with his colleague Thomas Jenkins, Frye's group carried out several experiments to determine the atmospheric gamma-ray spectrum from 50 MeV up to 12 GeV. They subsequently developed spark chambers and time-of-flight electronics for the detection of neutrons from the sun and other sources.

Until his retirement in 1993, Frye found a way to do exciting physics and astrophysics which involved travel and adventure. Launching balloon missions from the rural outskirts of Texas, to the vasts deserts of the Australian outback or the tropical rainforest of Panama he made world-class research, and offered great opportunities of advance for his students and colleagues.

He died on 8 January 2007 at the age of 80.

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