There’s an App for Dan Alderson

Dan Alderson at the LASFS clubhouse in the early 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

Dan Alderson at the LASFS clubhouse in the early 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

How interesting to discover that the Scientists of America app, which “explains about the famous American Scientists and their inventions,” includes Dan Alderson. His name and photo appear on the demonstration page along with others whose last names start with an A.

The late Alderson was a LASFS member and CalTech grad who worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he wrote the software used to navigate Voyagers 1 and 2.

Alderson devised a Fortran program (called TRAM for Trajectory Monitor) for navigation in the solar system, still used by low-thrust craft in 2008.

Dan Alderson was often consulted by his fellow LASFS members Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. His contributions were acknowledged in the naming of the fictional Alderson drive and Alderson disk. He inspired the “Dan Forrester” character in Lucifer’s Hammer.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

9 thoughts on “There’s an App for Dan Alderson

  1. Dan still is a member of the LASFS because Death Does Not Release You. And, he’s a Patron Saint, getting three rousing cheers on the first meeting of every year.

  2. So now I have one more app to buy. Some amazing people were, and are, (and always will be) members of LASFS.

  3. According to Wikipedia, “He died at an early age from complications of diabetes.” Age 47 if I did the math right.

    I was curious if he was diabetic like the character in Lucifer’s Hammer. I read three books of that type in a row. One Second After, Alas Babylon, and Lucifer’s Hammer, and I found the discussion of dealing with diabetes and insulin in Lucifer’s Hammer really interesting — whereas in the other books, it was just a death sentence.

  4. Dan was also a game designer, and I was one of many who helped play-test his games, including Space War. He also played by-mail games, using what is now called “snail mail”. I got the concept of magic as hyperspatial machines from him. He had more fascinating ideas than I can remember. There was a polyhedral planet (for easier game grids) named Mauvepuce. So much….

    When I was doing 3D models of nearby star locations (and types), Dan wrote a Fortran program that gave me triaxial coordinates for the near stars, in both local solar system and galactic orientations.

  5. Rek: I was curious if {Alderson} was {the} diabetic-like the character in Lucifer’s Hammer.

    I seem to recall reading in one of Niven’s collections that this was indeed the case.

    For me, he was only ever a character and a plot element (e.g. the Alderson Drive). More the loss, mine, clearly.

  6. @Paul Weimer
    I realize that it seems like anyone can now be nominated for “Best Editor, Short Form”, but I do believe that those works being editing must be offered up voluntarily.

    In my sentence, “like” was used as a simile. In your mutilation of my sentence, you changed the “like” to a suffix, but now there is an awkward second “the”. I do not believe that “the diabetic-like the character” is an improvement on what I originally wrote.

    Please do not edit my sentences when you quote me. It is tacky even when done properly.

  7. Thank you for the info. It’s good to know he will be written in the history books. I hadn’t realized he was so young when he died nor that I was now older then him when he died. Yes this he was diabetic. Back then testing for it and taking insulin was crude compared to today and really he hated dealing with it and at times downright refused. This should be a lesson the if you have diabetes to take care of it or it will take care of you. He was a brilliant man and concord space yet the diseases concord him much too early.

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