Piers Sellers, astronaut and climate scientist, passed away on Friday 23 December in Houston from pancreatic cancer. He was 61. Dr Sellers had served as acting director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and was an alumnus of the University of Leeds.
University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: “Staff and students of the University of Leeds are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Piers Sellers following his brave fight with cancer. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult of times.
“He cared deeply about our fragile planet and the people who inhabit it – his outstanding work and our fond memories of him will continue to inspire future generations.”
Piers Sellers was an inspirational astronaut and a distinguished climate scientist who gained a doctorate in biometeorology at the University in 1981 and was made an honorary Doctor of Science in 2007.
When the University’s new Priestley International Centre for Climate was launched in June 2016, Piers Sellers sent a video message in which he said: “I love Leeds University and I am still in awe of the reach and spirit of the place ….” – a comment Sir Alan described as a typically generous reflection on the time he spent at Leeds.
Piers will always be remembered by the University through two prizes (inaugurated in 2016 and to be awarded annually) which bear his name, the first for world-leading contributions to solution-focused climate research, the second designed to encourage and reward a Leeds PhD student committed to tackling climate change.