Lincoln La Paz
Lincoln La Paz was born in Wichita, Kansas on Feb. 12, 1897 to Charles Melchior La Paz and Emma Josephine (Strode). He studied mathematics at Fairmont College (now Wichita State University) where he obtained his B.A. in 1920. He was also an instructor at Fairmount 1917-1920. He then went to Harvard University on a scholarship, obtaining an M.A. in 1922, and then taught at Darthmouth College 1922-1925.
He then enrolled at the University of Chicago, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1928. He wrote his thesis on the calculus of variations under the direction of Gilbert Ames Bliss.
After a brief stint as National Research Fellow and as instructor at Chicago, he was hired as assistant professor at Ohio State in 1930. He was promoted to associate professor in 1936 and then to professor in 1942. While at Ohio State, La Paz was very active in developing the graduate program in mathematics, directing three Ph.D. students, including Earl J. Mickle.
During World War II, while on leave from Ohio State, he served as Research Mathematician at the New Mexico Proving Ground and as Technical Director, Operations Analysis Section, Second Air Force. During this period his interests shifted to ballistics and thence to the study of meteorites.
In 1945, he joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico and founded the Institute of Meteoritics, whose Director he was until 1966. From 1945 to 1953 he also served as Head of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy and, from 1953 to 1962, as Director of the Division of Astronomy.
La Paz was a pioneer in the field of meteoritics. At a time when meteorites were widely viewed as curiosities, he had the vision to recognize their scientific significance. He established active meteorite research programs at the University of New Mexico and described numerous new meteorites, many of which he had recovered. He also, almost singlehandedly, established the outstanding meteorite collection at UNM. His research resulted in the publication of over 120 scientific articles and books, and he also helped establish the journal "Meteoritics" and served as President of the Meteoritical Society.
He married Leota Ray Butler on June 18, 1922 and had two children, Leota Jean and Mary Strode.
He died on October 19, 1985 in Albuquerque.