Davis D. Sentman (1945–2011)



Davis D. Sentman, a geophysicist with wide-ranging interests but with a primary focus on atmospheric electricity and the originator of the term “sprites” for a type of lightning flash in the mesosphere, first appeared on the planet in a farming community in Iowa City, Iowa, on 19 January 1945. It is noteworthy that when Dave was only 6 months old, his father was struck and killed by lightning while on a tractor. Much later, after a 4-year stint in the U.S. Air Force and service in the Peace Corps in Kenya, Dave studied mathematics and went on to the University of Iowa to do graduate work with James Van Allen on early space missions, including the 1973 Jupiter encounters by the Pioneer 10 and 11 satellites. At the University of Iowa, he worked on energetic electrons and associated whistler waves in the Jovian inner magnetosphere.