1913 - 1997
home among the stars"
by his colleagues as the "Father of Space Satellite Survivability,"
Vernal Josephson was a physicist who had a long and distinguished
career in the aerospace and defense fields. Dr. Josephson was
born in Pleasant View, Idaho, to parents Joseph and Elizabeth
Josephson. As a child, he attended school during the winter months
in Pleasant View, and later, Malad, Idaho. During the summer months
he worked on the family's wheat ranch. His father had more ingenuity
than capital, and from him Dr. Josephson acquired his unique ability
to understand the true nature of problems and develop appropriate
solutions. From early childhood he participated in the hard work
of the farm, learning to drive the tractors that pulled large
plows and other farm equipment, and to handle horses. By the time
he was a teenager he could drive a harvester combine pulled by
six span of horses, and helped earn money for the family by hiring
out by the day to harvest other farmers' fields. At 80-plus years
of age he could still draw diagrams of the mowers, harvesters,
and other equipment, that he had used and repaired.
Dr. Josephson's entrance into college was delayed
a year while he accumulated the necessary funds. He attended Weber
State University in Ogden, Utah, then a two-year college. After
graduating from Weber, he attended Utah State University in Logan
where he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees. He received a fellowship
to study at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he earned
his Ph.D., conducting research in cosmic radiation. After graduation
he worked at the famous Radiation Laboratory at MIT in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, where during World War II he helped develop radar
and served as the art editor of the Radiation Laboratory's technical
In 1946, Dr. Josephson and his wife and two young
daughters moved to New Mexico where he worked for the Los Alamos
Scientific Laboratories. During his years working in Los Alamos
he was involved in nuclear testing in both the Nevada desert and
at the Bikini atoll in the south Pacific. While in New Mexico,
he and the family, now with a third daughter, purchased a small
"rancho" about 30 miles southeast of Los Alamos. For
a number of years, Dr. Josephson would spend his working hours
on "The Hill" as Los Alamos was known, and his weekends
and leisure hours with the family, including his beloved Belgian
Shepherd dog "Echo de la Nuit." He worked a great deal
on the family's house making adobe bricks, and building an addition
to the house, including plumbing, electrical work, cabinet work
and roofing. He also enjoyed raising alfalfa and fruit, and did
his share of local irrigation and ditch maintenance.
In 1957, Dr. Josephson accepted employment in California
at what ultimately became the Aerospace Corporation. Shortly after
arriving in California, the family was completed with the arrival
of twin girls. Settling in Palos Verdes Estates (near Los Angeles),
Dr. Josephson soon joined the Palos Verdes Breakfast Club, of
which he remained an active member until his death. His work at
Aerospace Corporation kept him involved in underground nuclear
testing. He received several awards from the Defense Department,
including recognition for his work by the Defense Nuclear Agency.
His later professional experience involved work mainly with satellite
survivability, relating to shielding of satellite bodies and antennae.
At his retirement from Aerospace Corporation in 1986 he was considered
by his colleagues to be the "Father of Space Satellite Survivability."
He consulted for several years after his retirement. In 1991 he
became the first recipient of the Peter Haas award for electronic
technology related to satellite defense systems. Dr. Josephson
held several patents pertaining to development of low-level X-rays
and other technology relating to radar and space survivability.
From his mother, Dr. Josephson had acquired a lifelong
love of music. As a child in Idaho he won recognition playing
the trumpet in a state music competition, and played with his
parents and siblings in a small orchestra for local dances. During
his years at Los Alamos Dr. Josephson played the trumpet both
in the community orchestra, and with neighbors as they went caroling.
Dr. Josephson was also interested in the visual
arts. In addition to woodcarving and photography, he enjoyed working
in oil painting. He painted still lifes, a portrait of his oldest
daughter, and landscapes. A frequent weekend excursion for the
family would be a day's outing to some picturesque spot, taking
along a picnic and Dr. Josephson's painting equipment.
Dr. Josephson was an enthusiastic skier, swimmer
and golfer. He also spoke several languages, including German
and Russian. In fact, in researching the history of his father's
family in Sweden he found it necessary to learn Swedish so that
he could translate some of the information he had found.
A long-time member of the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Dr. Josephson had contacts,
friends, and colleagues throughout the world. He attended international
conferences in Europe and Great Britain, with his family accompanying
him on some of them. After his retirement, he and his wife traveled
to New Zealand, Africa and the Seychelles, Nepal and Thailand,
where they were particularly interested in visiting wildlife refuges.
Dr. Josephson is survived by his wife Glenna; his
five daughters Sandra, Kirsten, Marni, L¸li and Lovisa;
seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.