John Allen Ball

  • Born: December 8, 1935
  • Died: August 6, 2019
  • Location: Harvard, Massachusetts

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Littleton, MA 01460
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Tribute & Message From The Family

John Allen Ball, MIT/Harvard Astrophysicist, age 83, died August 6, 2019, of complications resulting from Alzheimer's Disease. He died peacefully at home in Harvard, Massachusetts, surrounded by family.

John was born in 1935 in Ravenna, Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1957 with a BSEE. Having participated in ROTC in college, John served for two years as a lieutenant in the US Air Force, stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, Libya. John attended Harvard University in Cambridge, earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics. John worked as a radio astronomer at Harvard College Observatory in Harvard, MA; Harvard's Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge; and Harvard's radio astronomy station in Fort Worth, Texas. Later John joined MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, MA, where he worked as a research scientist until he retired in 2006. At Haystack, John managed the operations of the 37-meter diameter radio telescope, part of a global network of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) experiments. John also taught astronomy at Worcester State College. John published extensively in the field of astrophysics.

Other publications included a book Algorithms for RPM Calculators (1978) and papers, "The Zoo Hypothesis" (1973) and "The Search for Extraterrestrial Life: Recent Developments" (1985). John also had a number of other interests. These ranged from civil rights activism to photography, motorcycling to sailing, poetry to classical music. Later he focused on health and nutrition, adopting a vegan diet.

John served on the Town of Harvard Cable Committee.

John is survived by his wife of 64 years, Audrey Roth Ball; daughters Fifine, Desirée, and Laurie; son Kevin (Teresa Gudger); nephew Michael Ball (Beth); grandchildren Justin Walsh, Daniel Walsh, Jessica Anderson (Duke), Audrey Lewis, Lindsey Champion (Corey), and Samantha Gudger; and great-grandchildren Brookelan Heck and Tucker Ray Champion. He was predeceased by brothers Bill Ball (Dixie) and Donald Ball (Harriet). A Memorial

A memorial service for John will be held on Sunday, October 13, at 2:00 pm, at the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, in Harvard, Massachusetts. A gathering and refreshments will follow at the church's Fellowship Building.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Alzheimer's Association /


Condolence & Memory Journal

Sorry to hear of the families loss.may the families hearts be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times the family shared together with the dear loved one lost in death.keep those precious memories close to the families the families cherished a wonderful life that was well lived and loved by families and deepest sympathy and condolences to the families during this difficult time of grief and pain.
LYNN- Granville

Posted by A friend   August 21, 2019

Dear Fifi,
My deepest condolences to you, your mother and the rest of your family at the passing of your father. I hope that memories of happy times shared with him can bring you all comfort at this time. As I write this, I'm praying that a cure for Alzheimer's Disease is realized soon.
- Dian Pekin

Posted by Dian Pekin - Acton, MA   August 12, 2019

John was my supervisor at Haystack Observatory. A man of great intelligence, wit, generosity and patience with my endless questions and middle-of-the-night troubleshooting calls. Our daily interaction regarding work progress and problems were often punctuated with diverse discussions ranging from studies of animal intelligence, motorcycle racing, evolution, astrophysics and observations of everyday life. He made me think (and smile) every day. Deepest condolences to John's family.

Posted by Phil Shute - Peterborough, NH - coworker   August 11, 2019

Family Album