In Memoriam: Adam Showman

Adam Showman, professor of planetary sciences

Adam Showman, professor of planetary sciences

Adam Showman, professor of planetary sciences and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, died March 16 at his home in Tucson. He was 51.

 His untimely passing has been felt widely in the international planetary science community, which has lost an outstanding theorist, dedicated teacher of many graduate students, and a sought-after collaborator to a worldwide network of exoplanet astronomers, according to a tribute posted on the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory website.

Showman studied physics at Stanford University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 1991. He earned a doctorate at the California Institute of Technology in 1999, with a dissertation on the atmosphere of Jupiter as well as the geophysics of its largest moon, Ganymede. After two short postdoctoral stints at the University of Louisville and NASA's Ames Research Center, Showman joined the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona as an assistant professor in 2001. He was named full professor in 2012. In 2018, he was named a Galileo Circle Fellow, one of the highest honors for faculty in the College of Science. 

During his career, Showman directly advised 11 graduate students and mentored many more across the disciplines of planetary sciences, atmospheric sciences and geosciences. He was a renowned teacher who enjoyed explaining to his students the complicated details of planetary physics and hammering out ideas to solve research problems.

His early pioneering research on the atmospheric dynamics of exoplanets has been the paradigm of hot gas giant atmospheric circulation models ever since.

Showman extended his innovative theoretical models beyond hot gas giant planets, to tidally-locked and fast-rotating planets of smaller sizes and cooler temperatures as well as to the larger and warmer brown dwarfs. He was deeply involved in the exoplanet science community, collaborating with many observers to interpret their observations of exoplanet atmospheres and working with theorists to advance modeling techniques. He served the planetary sciences community in many professional roles, including as editor of the international planetary science journal Icarus.

Showman also made notable contributions to our understanding of atmospheric circulation in the four giant planets in our own solar system and of the geophysics of the Galilean satellites.

Students and colleagues alike knew Showman as a fount of knowledge and ideas, which he shared generously and widely. He was a friend to many, who remember his spirit of adventure and abiding curiosity.

Showman is survived by his daughter, Arwen, his brother, Ken, and his parents, Pete and Dinah. A memorial in his honor, to be held via Zoom, is scheduled for Saturday, April 4 at 1 p.m.

A version of this story originally appeared on the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory website.

Resources for the Media