Jeff Medkeff (Blue Collar Scientist) has died

By Phil Plait | August 4, 2008 7:00 pm

I am terribly, terribly saddened to say that my friend and fellow skeptic, Jeff Medkeff, aka Blue Collar Scientist, succumbed to cancer on Sunday.


Jeff was an astronomer, specifically an asteroid hunter. He found dozens of big rocks out there, and just recently named four of them after PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Mike Stackpole, and me. He fell ill earlier this year, and we knew it wasn’t good. The odds of survival were pretty low, but we hoped anyway — sometimes that’s all you can do. He was planning on going to Dragon*Con later this month, too.

Jeff was a skeptic. He was a nice guy, a cool guy, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly. We can all aspire to such.

My heart goes out to his wife, his family, and to everyone who knew him, and to those who didn’t and now won’t get the chance. We are all weakened when one of us falls, but we must all strive on and continue. That’s the best tribute we can give.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Piece of mind, Skepticism

Comments (28)

  1. Nick

    Really sad to hear of the loss, My heart is with his family and friends.

  2. My thoughts are with you and his family. Are there any memorial funds or the like so that his works will continue on in his memory?

  3. Davidlpf

    Sorry to hear about his loss.

  4. Yoeman

    That is very sad news indeed, my condolences to his family and friends.

  5. Ed

    I’m very sorry to hear this. I only knew Jeff through his blog, and even then I had just discovered it a few months before he took ill.

    My thoughts are with his family and friends.


  6. Dan Dangerously

    Unfortunately, this is really my first encounter with his blog or anything having to do with him. Still, very sad news.

  7. ozprof

    Very sorry to hear this. I met Jeff back in 2000 when I attended the MPAPW in Tuscon that year. Jeff had posted that he was willing to house someone coming to the conference from overseas to save our costs. Myself and another participent from Uragray stayed at Jeff’s house. Wonderful guy, and very generous. Very much enjoyed meeting him and his wife.

    RIP Jeff.

  8. Zucchi

    We all get a temporary ticket; all we can do is make a contribution while we’re here, like Jeff Medkeff did.

  9. Kyle

    Anyone who would name asteroids after that group as well as Derek and Swoopy from Skepticality will be missed. I even got in a few posts with him over at the forum. Nice guy.

  10. Robert Medkeff

    Thank you for all your kind words. It helps to know that Jeff will be missed by everyone. This is a trying time for his family, as not only are we mourning Jeff’s passing away but also his Grandmother. She passed away just a little more than 24 hours after Jeff. They were always very close and will continue to be. Jeff is survived by his wife, mother, father, brother (me), and thousands of friends. He is missed.

  11. This is terrible news. I can only hope that when my time comes to an end I will have left the world a better place than when I came into it, like he has. It is something to aspire to. My thoughts are with his family and his friends.

  12. The odds of survival were pretty low, but we hoped anyway —

    Sometimes hope isn’t about a good outcome, but about leaving the world a better place than when you found it.

    A successful life, indeed.

  13. I just had to re-do the Dragon*Con schedule due to this terrible event since Jeff was going to do a lecture on the Skeptic Track. So everyone knows I have taken his speaking spot and turned it into a memorial panel about Education, dedicated to the memory of Jeff and all he has done.

  14. Sili

    Hopins is all we can do – even though that often makes the loss feel worse.

    I’d completely missed that it was he that had named those asteoroids. I hope someone now names a few after him and his blog.

  15. Dave Mitsky

    I had corresponded with Jeff over the years and had the opportunity to meet him and his wife when my wife and I visited Arizona seven years ago. He invited us to dinner and we had a fine dinner at his home in Sierra Vista. Jeff’s intelligence and logical approach to astronomy will be missed.

  16. Kol

    I’m still keeping his blog in my feed subscription list. His work didn’t end with his life and, based on his passion, neither would he want me to unsubscribe.

    I expect to see this sentiment come to fruition:

    “…we must all strive on and continue.”

    Continue the blog. Many of us are, indeed, Blue Collar Scientists even if we are of the “armchair” sort.

    A good life lived requires no sadness.

  17. Calli Arcale

    I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. I hadn’t visited his blog often, but had always liked what I read there. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family. For those who don’t believe in prayer, think of it as an expression of sympathy. I believe that the biggest power of prayer is available to religious and non-religious alike — the power of focusing one’s mind on a painful topic, which keeps it active in your thoughts so that you have a better chance of inspiration or even doing something about it. In the case of prayer after a death, it is a means of keeping the person’s memory alive, and that is valuable whether prayer has any meaning or not beyond quiet contemplation. Whether you pray *to* anyone or are simply meditating may not be so important.

    In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, there is a philosophy held by the people of the Ramtops that the time in which a person is actually alive is only the nugget at the center of their actual life. They are not completely dead until the last clock they wound up has wound down, until the last cheese they set on the shelf has been eaten, until the wine they corked has been drunk, etc. The ripples of a person’s life extend far, far beyond the confines of their life, and Jeff Medkeff touched many people. If we remember him, his life is not really over yet, at least in this philosophy. He continues on in our memories, and in the battle for critical thinking.

  18. This is very sad. I just sent Jeff an e-mail last week wishing him well. I knew of Jeff’s blog because he had mentioned me in one of them. I made an orbital diagram of the asteroid named Philplait and posted on BAUT where Jeff found it and blogged about it:

    Last week I realized that he also had an asteroid named after him. I guess that should have been obvious. Knowing he was sick, and knowing he liked my first diagram, I made a similar one for asteroid Jeffmedkeff, hoping it would raise his spirits a bit. He never replied to my e-mail. Now I know why :(

    Image: orbital diagram of 41450 Jeffmedkeff

    Thanks, Jeff for the handfull of blogs, which is all I knew you by. I wish they could have continued for many years.

  19. Marccia Medkeff Hall

    As our family mourns the loss of Jeff, as well as the passing of my mother, it is comforting to read the kind remarks left here about Jeff. I remember buying Jeff science books for children when he was only four years old (his preferred gift). They seemed to be way too advanced for him, yet two minutes later, he was curled up on the sofa, oblivious to anything else but his books. He was like a sponge, soaking up the information! We will miss him.

  20. Wendy
  21. Mark Buettemeier

    WOW! Words cannot express my shock to this news. I knew Jeff during his Arizona days, met him in-person at a few astronomy events in Texas and Washington state, hosted him and his wife in our home on one of their trips through to explore a future life in Alaska. After that we fell out of contact. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and his entire family. Blessings and comfort to you during this difficult time. He accomplished much in his short life here. We should all be inspired to do even a fraction as much. Rest in peace!

  22. Greg Medkeff

    The loss of any family member can be disheartening, especially when it involves someone at such a young age. And now the loss of my dear Aunt, Jeff’s grandmother… She was like a second mother to me. I am sure that they are together. Marccia, please call me when you can.

  23. Anchor

    I have just heard this unbearably sad news. Jeff was a good and smart man graced with an abiding faith in rationality…and he saw far while he was with us. Sincerest condolences to his and his grandmother’s family.

  24. This is a horrible shock. I’ve known Jeff for years, most particularly through our chat channel, #sciastro, where we was an OP, and in person. I loved his understated, dry sense of humor and the intelligence he brought to bear in everything he did. His loss is devastating, but now whenever I look at asteroids through my beloved 18″, I will always remember him as a truly unique and gifted guy. Even through the tears, I can truthfully say that my life in astronomy was much the better for having known Jeff. My prayers go out to his surviving family members. And Jeff – now you can truly carpe noctem.

  25. Jose

    sorry. I’m trying to figure out how adding links works.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar