Charles Barth

July 12, 1930October 14, 2014

Charles A. Barth, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado, died after a long illness in his home on October 14th 2014 at age 84.

Charles is survived by his wife of 60 years, Louise Barth, of Boulder, his 4 children Robert (Christine), John (Jane), Matthew (Kathleen), and Mary (Charles), and his grandchildren Samuel, Nathan, Talia, Torey, David, Darin, Trevor, Alexander, and Katherine. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Eleanor.

Charles grew up in Philadelphia where he attended Central High School. He received his B.S. in chemistry at Lehigh University. After serving in the Air Force, he earned his Ph.D. from UCLA. From 1958 to 1959 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bonn, Germany, followed by six years working at the CalTech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. From 1965 to 1992 he was the Director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and until 2002 a professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. He became Professor Emeritus in 2002.

Between 1962 and 2002, Charles was the investigator for numerous experiments studying the Earth and other planets, including Mariners 5, 6, 7, and 9, OGO-2, 4, 5, and 6, Atmosphere Explorer-C and D, the Solar Mesosphere Explorer, the Student Nitric Oxide Experiment, and instruments on Apollo 17, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, and Cassini. He guided the growth of LASP into its current position as the preeminent university laboratory for space and planetary exploration. He especially valued giving undergraduate students their first taste of space and planetary science by allowing them to design, build and operate spacecraft, an experience students at the University of Colorado can still receive. He mentored and inspired many students, postdoctoral fellows, and scientists, producing a lasting legacy of friends, colleagues, and outstanding scientists.

Charles and Louise met in Los Angeles during his graduate studies, and moved the family to Boulder in 1965. Charles had a great love for the Colorado mountains, hiking and camping with the family as often as possible. He volunteered and worked with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. He was a thoughtful and kind man, always fascinated by science and technology, always the organizer and leader. He will be missed.

In lieu of flowers please consider donating to the Charles A. Barth Scholarship in Space Research at the University of Colorado to support and inspire future space scientists. More information can be found at

Please share thoughts, memories, and condolences at Respecting Charles' wishes no formal service will be held. His ashes will be scattered in the Colorado mountains.

Arrangements under the direction of Crist Mortuary, Boulder, CO.


Charles Barth

have a memory or condolence to add?

Malcolm LeCompte

April 24, 2015

Charlie would throw out a thought provoking suggestion just to see if his students would take the bait and run with it. In a frequent classroom demonstration, he would simulate conditions on solar system planets by immersing tennis balls and celery stalks in liquified nitrogen and CO2 and then attempt to use them in a terrestrial fashion with predictably dramatic or awe inspiring results. In that way he was an unmatched and inspirational teacher and mentor to many. His casual suggestion that the Viking results might have implications for the habitability of Mars and its future colonization ultimately lead some of his students to invest their careers in that very notion. His was irreplaceable yet his influence will persist in innumerable lives, including those yet unborn. some day perhaps including future residents on the very planet whose exploration he pioneered.

Clyde Borrell

December 16, 2014

I was saddened to read about Dr. Barth's passing in the Winter Edition of the Coloradan Alumni Magazine. I graduated from the University of Colorado in 1975 but still remember taking a graduate physics class taught by Dr. Barth, “Planetary Physics”. I would have to say it was one of the best classes I ever attended. I even remember my term paper which was titled “The Changing Faces of Mars”. I knew I was going to score well on the paper since nearly every reference was either directly, or indirectly, credited to Dr. Barth. I've spoken about Dr. Barth numerous times to my son who is studying physics at Stetson University in Florida and who has already put the University of Colorado on his list of graduate schools after graduation from Stetson.

Bill Wehrbein

December 15, 2014

I was so sorry to read of Dr. Barth's passing in the CU alumni magazine. He and Charlie Hord were my thesis advisors, and I held him in great awe. I'm glad I visited with him more recently on my annual trips through Boulder. God's Peace to his family and friends.

Susan Maximon

November 10, 2014

As someone who was a bit player in the 1970s glory days of LASP, I was so sad to learn of the passing of Dr. Barth. Even though LASP was making amazing advances in space physics, somehow Dr. Barth also made all of us feel like a part of the team. I still have my 43 year old son's mug from Pioneer Venus. And I remember getting up early to watch a launch of one of our instruments. Along with the science, there was lots of laughing and fun too. Dr. Barth was a great leader and because of him I feel a bond with everyone who was part of LASP's success in those heady days of the 1970s.

Rionda Osman Alain Jouchoux

November 8, 2014

May your family take comfort in this loss by remembering all of the good times. We will remember his many achievements and we are grateful for the opportunities he afforded us.

Kathy Murray (Cole)

October 23, 2014

I was a secretary at LASP from 1971-1976, in LASP's glory days. I remember the Thursday afternoon seminars, specifically the one during which the other secretary and I were laughing hysterically and loudly just on the other side of the conference room wall. Suddenly, someone (Dr. Barth) pounded furiously on the wall. Never have two girls gone so silent so fast.
The other great memory is when I needed to say something to Dr. Barth's secretary. She didn't have an intercom at her desk, but I knew Dr. Barth wasn't in his office, so I BELLOWED for her on his intercom. Two seconds later Dr. Barth was standing in front of me telling me his chair was still oscillating. Oh the terror, but he never got mad at us. Even after all these years, I am very sad to hear of his death. He was a big part of a special time of my life.

Karen Simmons

October 22, 2014

From the early days of Mariner Venus to his last efforts in late 2013 to publish and archive the atmospheric discoveries from Mariner 6&7, he was the consummate scientist. It was always enlightening to work with him. As a teacher, the successes of his students is ample testimony. He was also a very successful manager - as Director of LASP he led us all through the heyday of planetary discovery, be it Earth's ozone or the atmosphers of other planets and moons, making CU a preminant space institution. But above all he was a kind and thoughtful person, he told a critical colleague to take off in the middle of a Mission to go to her dying mother. It is altogether fitting in the end for him to be in the mountains, I remember topographic maps spread across his desk when the family was planning a camping trip. He did indeed love the mountains. What a privilege to have known him.

October 21, 2014

I'm sorry for your loss. May you find comfort knowing that God is near you and is a refuge during this difficult time.
Psalms 9:9

charles w. hord

October 21, 2014

I feel so honored and humbled to have been a part of LASP.
Charlie created an environment that led to the success and
growth of the Laboratory to its current prominence. I never had a truer friend. He will be missed.

Dignity Care

October 20, 2014

Our deep Sympathy, wishing you comfort at this time of loss.