Arne Wyller in memoriam

Arne Wyller in memoriam

 (The following is a rough translation of a text written by me and published in the largest Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter)

Arne August Wyller, former director of the Institute for Solar Physics of the Royal Swedish Academy, passed away on 19 June 2001 in his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after an extended period of illness.

Arne Wyller was born in 1927 in Paris. He spent his childhood in Paris, Lillehammer (Norway) and during the second world war in Uppsala (Sweden). He studied first at the university college in Lillehammer but was awarded a scholarship at Harvard, where he completed his doctor’s degree in astronomy in 1955. Except for the years 1961-1964, when he was associated with the University of Oslo, his research was carried out at US academic institutes and universities during a period of 20 years. In 1966 he took up a position as professor at the Bartol Research Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson University in Swarthmore. In 1973 Wyller was appointed as professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and director of its Institute for Solar Physics (at that time, the Capri Station for Solar Research) in Capri, Italy. Arne Wyller retired in 1992.

 Wyller’s research includes important contributions to widely separate areas in astronomy. His early work involved observational studies of C2 and CN molecules in spectra from late-type stars and theoretical calculations of transition probabilities for C2. He also concluded theoretical and observational studies of carbon stars, including measurements of the 12C/13C isotope ratio. His continued research was in theoretical plasma physics and involved for example studies of wave propagation and calculations of the thermal conductivity in partially ionized plasmas embedded in a magnetic field. Wyller may have been one of the first to suggest that black holes can be expected near the center of globular clusters. During his last years in the USA, Wyller developed a pressure scanning spectrometer, which was used, e.g., for studies of the solar atmosphere.

Taking up the position as director of the Institute for Solar Physics in 1973, Wyller realized the need to move its solar telescope from Capri to a better astronomical site, and to modernize its instrumentation. With  support of the Academy, he in 1979 successfully negotiated with Spanish, British and Danish astronomers an agreement to establish an international observatory, hosted by the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, on the Island of La Palma, Spain. He thereby laid the foundation to the successful development of the Institute for Solar Physics during the decades to follow.

 Arne Wyller was a grandson of the Swedish writer and painter August Strindberg and actress Harriet Bosse. This appears to have laid the foundation of a unique combination of personalities. Wyller was both a humanist and a scientist, and his ideas were not always within the realms expected from a scientist. Many of his friends and colleagues saw him as Renaissance Man, with a breadth of knowledge in art, literature, music, philosophy, science and technology. He was an extremely kind and gentle person and one of the most important visionaries in Swedish astronomy. 

-Göran Scharmer