John Marsh Wilcox, Director of the Stanford Solar Observatory, died while swimming in surf in the Sea of Cortez near Puerto Penasco, Mexico, on October 14, 1983. He was 58 years old.
A solar physicist specializing in the study of magnetic fields at the solar surface and in the interplanetary medium, Wilcox authored or coauthored over 100 scientific publications. Over the past decade, working with various associates, Wilcox found that there is a yet unexplained connection between the sector boundaries of the interplanetary magnetic field and the areas of strong vorticity in the circulation of the earth's atmosphere at the lower boundary of the stratosphere. The effect, though small and of changeable magnitude, is of great theoretical interest.