Jeffrey E. McClintock

United States



Words from his son:

Jeffrey McClintock passed away peacefully, with family by his side, Wednesday, November 8th, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September of last year. He was 75.

Throughout his life, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, uncle and more, as well as a fully dedicated colleague, mentor and student. He was endlessly fascinated with learning, including special passions for history, math, and, of course, science. His combination of knowledge, ability, focus and patience was a joy to behold, and he was an inspiration to all that knew him.

Jeff was raised in Port Orchard, WA where he developed his lifelong passion for astrophysics. He built his first of several telescopes at 11 years old and at 13, made frequent solo visits to learn about astronomy from a local amateur, as was reported in this front pageSeattle Post-Intelligencer article. At 15 years old, his telescope project, “The Art of Making Parabolic Mirrors” won first prize at the Tacoma Science Fair -- representing all of Western Washington.

He was the Student Body President of South Kitsap High School, where among many other activities he excelled at speech and debate. He went 18-0 his senior year, breaking Washington’s record for consecutive victories en route to becoming State Champion. Following both his Junior and Senior years at South Kitsap High, he traveled solo by train to compete at the International Key Club Convention in Toronto, and the National Championships in Boston, respectively.

After majoring in Physics at Stanford University, Jeff earned his PhD in Physics from M.I.T., where he worked until 1985, when he was offered a position at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. A 1997 account by Harvard-Smithsonian says, “he is generally acknowledged as the world’s foremost observer of stellar-mass black holes; he has discovered approximately two thirds of the known low mass black hole systems, including the first.”

In 2009, he accepted the Bruno Rossi Prize at a ceremony in Washington DC. More recently, he was instrumental in the origin of the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023. A talk he gave two years ago on that project can be found at this link (Jeff begins at 5:05 mark).

After moving to Chatham, New Jersey this June, Jeff thoroughly enjoyed his unexpected retirement. “I’d have died with my boots on at 90, and now I’ve had a wonderful summer of being free and learning new things” he said recently. Among many other Jersey favorites, he was a frequent visitor to the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, and wherever his grandkids Kyle (16) and Owen (13) wanted to go for dinner.

Jeff’s death follows that of his wife, Fran McClintock, who died of Alzheimer’s on September 29th. Following Fran’s passing, a donation page was set up for the Alzheimer’s Association, and Jeff was touched by the many people who have supported this important cause. In lieu of flowers, if you haven’t already done so, feel free to contribute to the ongoing effort using this link:

In addition to my wife Jenna and my sons and me, Jeff, who was the oldest of four children, is survived by his brother Robert McClintock. We thank everybody for your tremendous support and care these past few days, weeks and months.

Past affiliation(s) within the IAU

  • Past Member of Division D High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics (until 2017)

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