I ﬁrst met Michael Gadsden in the late 1970s when he visited our Upper Atmospheric Group at Southampton University, UK. At that time I was a new graduate student studying for my Ph.D. under Pamela Rothwell. Mike (as I was later privileged to call him) was interested in developing a collaborative program to study polarization in noctilucent clouds (NLC) using our low-light video cameras. Of course at that time I had never even heard of noctilucent clouds but what an impression he made on us all! Within a couple of months I found myself heading north for Scotland, with my car packed full of video gear, eager to learn all about these fascinating night shining clouds that only occur during the summer months at higher latitudes. True to his nature, Mike gave me the “royal tour” of the ancient city of Aberdeen and its famous university, introducing me to the faculty in the Department of Natural Philosophy as a “heathen from the south” (you have to say it with a Scottish accent) who had “come north for the summer to gain a decent education!”
We set up our cameras at the majestic Cromwell Tower Observatory, located in Kings College in the oldest part of the university (circa 1400 AD). Mike had recently refurbished this abandoned observatory and after several weeks of tutoring me while waiting for the Scottish skies to clear, we were eventually rewarded with a wonderful NLC display. It was a most impressive event that lit up the northern sky late at night, with many beautiful iridescent blue-white waves illuminated within the twilight arch. I savored this eerie yet tranquil time, and as the display grew in brightness, it was soon accompanied by a chorus of birds singing as they were tricked by this “false dawn”. I was ﬁrmly hooked! Moreover, we gained our ﬁrst data on circular polarization in NLC on this night and Mike swiftly prepared a letter for publication in Nature [Gadsden, Rothwell, Taylor, 1979. Nature 278]. Therein began a wonderful relation with Mike, ﬁrst as a mentor and later as a colleague and dear friend.
2. Early career
Mike was born in Harrow, England, in December 1933, the youngest of three brothers. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Physics (with honors) in 1954 from The Royal College of Science, Imperial College, London. He then continued to do his Ph.D. in Technical Optics, also at Imperial College, with a thesis entitled “The Application of Colorimetry to some Astronomical and Meteorological Phenomena”, awarded in 1957. It was during his student years that he ﬁrst met and later married his lifelong partner Mavis Upton in 1955. In 1957, Mike and Mavis moved to New Zealand where he took a position as a Scientific Ofﬁcer at the Auroral Station at Invercargill, making radar and optical measurements as a part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY). Using his knowledge of optics, he was able to develop spectrometers for the study of aurora, twilight and the night sky which led to his ﬁrst visits to Antarctica. In 1963, Mike, Mavis and their three children (Andrew, Anne and Jonathan) moved to Boulder, CO, to take up a position at the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (now NOAA), where he soon became the Director of Fritts Peak Observatory, and in 1968, was appointed Director of the Aeronomy Laboratory. Mike was a happy man, always telling jokes and often making time to tell endless stories and adventures. It always amused him that as an “alien resident” in the USA, he held a high ranking Civil Servant position-something that would be virtually impossible these days. Whilst at Boulder, Mike was involved in a broad range of research activities, with several visits to the South