In Memoriam: Dowell Edward Martz

by Marcum Martz, CHP

Dowell Edward Martz passed away on 9 February 2012 at the age of 88 from complications due to Parkinson’s disease.

Dowell was born in 1923 in Glendale, Missouri, the second of three children of Amanda and Pearl Martz, where he lived on a farm and grew up during the Great Depression. He graduated from Livonia High School at the age of 15 in 1939. He worked a variety of jobs until joining the Army in 1942 and served most of the duration of World War II at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, India.

Following World War II, Dowell entered college and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he met and married Mabel Hunter in 1950. He was awarded an Atomic Energy Commission Graduate Fellowship in physics and he received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1953. He earned a PhD in health physics from Colorado State University in 1968.

Dowell’s professional career had many highlights. He worked as a research physicist at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in China Lake, California, and was a member of the team that developed the infrared tracking system for the Sidewinder missile. Later, at the California Institute of Technology, he designed multiple infrared photometers that were used for astronomy research at Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories. His group at Caltech published the first northern hemisphere infrared sky survey and observed for the first time a type of star that has been named NML after the first letters of the names of the principal investigators in that research.

Dowell Martz is perhaps best remembered as a professor of physics at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, where he spent nearly 25 years teaching students and participating in various community activities, including leading interested groups of amateur astronomers in stargazing with the telescope on the hill above the college. Recognizing that the Napa Valley’s economic potential lay in its unique agricultural industry, he became involved in county government and was elected to the Napa County Board of Supervisors in 1974. His efforts helped spur a voter initiative that preserved land for agricultural use. He served two terms as the supervisor from the third district, representing St. Helena, Calistoga, and much of the rural county areas from 1974 to 1982.

Following his time in the Napa Valley, he worked as a health physicist at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, where he developed radiation-testing equipment and procedures that were used in the cleanup of the damaged Three Mile Island power reactor. He continued his work in radioactive isotope instrumentation and analysis at Chem-Nuclear Geotech in Grand Junction, Colorado. After he retired in 1991, he and Mabel moved to Drain, Oregon, where he shared his love of the outdoors with his children and grandchildren and introduced them to one of his favorite treats, ice cream with freshly picked Oregon blackberries.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mabel Hunter Martz; his two sisters, Marjorie Sandau and Edith Azevedo; and four children, Martin, Marjorie, Marcum, and Merri; along with six grandchildren. Dowell Martz will be interred in the McCune Cemetery in Livonia, Missouri.