Len Tyler

Died March 16, 2023


Len Tyler died on March 16, 2023 of late-stage Alzheimer’s Disease.  He was 82 years old. He spent the last few years at San Juan Villa in Port Townsend, where he received dedicated and caring attention.

During his career as a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, Len was an expert in radio astronomy, and worked on many NASA flagship missions, including the Mars Global Surveyor, Voyager and New Horizons Missions. He pioneered and perfected the scientific art of radio occultation, where radio signals passed through planetary atmospheres and scattered off their surfaces, to remotely sense their structure. Len was proud to say he had visited every planet in the solar system during his academic career. Then too he never met an asteroid that he didn’t like! In fact, he was honored by having his name permanently attached to Asteroid 195405 for his contributions to the exploration of the Pluto system and the Kuiper belt.  His special research interests included:  radio propagation experiments for remote sensing in space and on Earth; radio wave scattering; inverse scattering problems; and signal processing. 

Len took pleasure in working closely with his colleagues at Stanford and abroad, and especially with over forty of his graduate students in the Radio Science Laboratory throughout his tenure in Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering. He made close, lifelong friends with many of these colleagues.

He grew up as an only child of George and Mabel, in Bartow, Florida, and went to Georgia Institute of Technology for his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and then to Stanford for his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. It was during his studies at Stanford that he and his then-wife, Judith Harrold, had their two children. His daughter, Virginia Kimmel and her husband, Larry, live near St. Louis, MO, and his son, Matthew Tyler, and his wife, Karen Obermeyer, live in Port Townsend. He has one grandson, Davis.

In 1977, he married Joanne Tyler. They resided in Menlo Park, Calif. until 2006 when he retired from Stanford, and they moved to Port Townsend, spending many years enjoying the community and making dear friends.

Len enjoyed flying his single-engine airplane, which he often used to commute to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and to visit friends.  Len loved being a ham radio operator and used this hobby to connect with others all over the world.  He deeply appreciated nature and the outdoors. In his youth he could be found bicycling, water skiing, and fishing.  Later he spent time backpacking and star gazing in the Sierras.