Kenneth Carl Herr, PhD.


Huntington Beach,Ca/ Indian Wells, Ca/ Rochester, NY: On November 26, 2015, Ken Herr passed peacefully at age 78, after a two year battle with cancer.  He was predeceased by his father, Carl Herr; mother Evelyn Herr and brother Gerald Herr.  He is survived by his loving wife, Gail Pillar Herr; sons Michael D. (Julie) Herr & Douglas G. Herr and grandson, Dean M. Herr, along with extended family in Rochester, the Meeson’s, especially Scott, Pamela, Scottie, Luke and Blake as well as many close friends.

Ken graduated with a BS Degree from RIT and went on to the University of California, Berkeley earning his PhD. in Physical Chemistry. After earning his PhD. he went to work for NASA at Berkeley  working on two Mariner probes that flew in 1969, Mariner 6 and Mariner 7.   They carried the first infrared spectrometers flown in space. Both spectrometers were identical and built by Ken and his team. These devices gave the first direct measurement of the composition of the polar caps on Mars, and Ken’s original papers are still held as the gold standard on that topic.  The instruments were truly remarkable, and returned the highest sensitivity data ever measured from a spacecraft probe; we still have not surpassed their sensitivity in space.  They used liquid hydrogen for cooling, something never repeated.  It was an outrageous, fearless, and utterly effective approach.  That approach ran throughout the rest of Ken’s career.

After Mariner, he went to work for The Aerospace Corporation, switching to defense work and very literally he changed that entire community. Ken developed a kind of ground-based chemical tracking that most of the community was openly adamant that it was not possible.  But again, he made it work, because he had the scientific insight to see routes others couldn’t. He was determined in chasing that route and had the leadership skills to do it. Much of what we know about ground-based chemical mapping has its roots in Ken’s work and his leadership.

Ken received The President’s Distinquished Achievement Award from Aerospace acknowledging specific outstanding achievements by the professional community. It was a high commendation.  Along with Ken’s achievements, he was known for his many publications. He was a truly gifted presenter, never forgetting to give credit to all concerned.  He was well thought of throughout the scientific community as a scientist, manager, visionary and person.  He will be sadly missed by all.

A Celebration of his Life held after the first of the year in Huntington Beach and his ashes will be buried in Rochester NY.

Anyone wishing to make a donation in Ken’s memory may do so by sending the donation to Memorial Sloan Kettering  PO Box 27106 New York , New York 10087-7106, please include Gail’s email address along with the donation

Rochester Cremation, 4044 W. Henrietta Road, Rochester NY 14623, 359-2300,

10 Condolences

  1. Daunesse Osmond on November 29, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Gail dear, Our Los Lagos Community and Board of Directors lost a most valuable member of the Board and community when your precious Ken joined family loved ones in God’s Garden. All who knew Ken will miss him, we loved Ken and we are suffering his loss with you.
    God Bless, Daunesse and Jeannie

  2. Jeanne Pimentel on December 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Dear Gail,
    I was devastated to hear this news, as were all the remaining members of the Mariner team, whose lives were deeply affected by Ken. I am so glad to have known him just a little, and to have met you. I send you my deep and sincere condolences and hope we can stay in touch.
    – Jeanne (Mrs. George) Pimentel

  3. Jim Holsworth on December 1, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    I have so many fond memories of Ken from my days working for him on he Mariner Mars project. Actually it was too much fun to be called work. My best time with Ken was during a several week motorcycle trip to Vancouver Canada. So sorry for your loss Gail.

  4. Bob and Sharon Karvetski on December 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    We are so saddened by Ken’s loss….he was truly a wonderful person….so down to earth you never felt out of place being in his company….he will honestly be missed by all….

  5. Margie Byrd on December 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Gail we are so sorry to hear of your loss. We will miss him dearly. Our deepest condolences go out to you and the family. May Kenny R.I.P. and may there be peace knowing he is no longer suffering. We love you- Bill & Margie Byrd

  6. Romana Mattioli on December 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I was very deeply shocked and saddened to read about Kenny’s passing.
    He touched the lives of everyone he came into contact with and was one of the nicest, kindest people I’ve ever met and was so much fun to be around. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

  7. Ian and Cindy Bell on December 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Dear Gail,

    We are so very sorry to hear about the loss of Uncle Kenny. Our hearts are with you and your family during this difficult time. Heaven has gained a wonderful angel, and I hope you can feel the warmth of his love shining down on you now and always.

    Love, Ian and Cindy

  8. Joyce Boehl Garland on December 11, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Dear Gail, I received a call from my sister-in-law today informing me that she read of Ken’s passing. I am so sorry for your loss and mine too. We lost touch of each other about 50 + years ago unfortunately but I have wonderful childhood memories I am Ken and Jerry’s cousin. My brother Jim passed away 1996 of cancer also. I was so proud to read of Ken’s accomplishments and his gift to NASA. Wished we had never lost touch but am proud of my cousin Kenny! I live in Suwanee Georgia (north of Atlanta). If you have a chance, would love to hear from you.

  9. Wilma Szabla on January 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    So Sorry To Hear Of Ken’s Death…

    From His Cousin Wilma

  10. Hunti on February 17, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Hi,My name is Sarah and I’m with Dwellable. I was looking for blog posts about the Outer Banks to share on our site and I came acsros your post If you’re open to it, drop me a line at Sarah(at)dwellable(dot)com.Hope to hear from you Sarah

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