John D Craven

May 1, 1941 ~ January 13, 2021 (age 79)


John D. Craven
John Delano Craven, 79, died due to complications of ALS on January 13, 2021, in Fairbanks,
Alaska. He was known by many names: John, Johnny, Dad, Granddad, Professor Craven. He
leaves behind loving family and friends, all with cherished memories of his long and well-lived
John was born to John and Alice Craven in 1941 and was raised in Graettinger, Iowa,
surrounded by farms with his younger siblings, Joe and Mary Ellen, and many close cousins.
After working in his father’s gas station while growing up, John decided to pursue the big city
life at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, where he earned a BS, MS, and PhD in physics. He
was drawn to space physics, notably the development of spacecraft instrumentation to study
Earth’s upper atmosphere, and the years of data analysis that such studies provided. John
studied in the laboratory of the prominent scientist James Van Allen. And after graduation, in
1969, he stayed at the University of Iowa as a research scientist.
While immersed in his studies, John had the good fortune to meet Anthea Rogers, who had
recently moved from Rhodesia to Iowa. They were married in 1968, and despite taking her to
2001: A Space Odyssey seven times that first year together, it was the beginning of a long and
happy marriage. They bought a small home in Iowa City with a backyard full of fruit trees and
perfect for a small garden, which grew larger each year.
The arrival of their children, Sarah and Colin, in the 1970s signaled a pivot to family life,
inspiring John to replace his BMW with an unforgettable orange Mercury Bobcat station wagon
with fake wood paneling.
John was a devoted scientist, husband, and father. He worked long hours in the office, and
traveled to conferences around the world. But he also enjoyed time with his family: tending the
garden, pitching baseballs or soccer balls, devising extra math homework. Every year he would
swim and relax on the beach, with a beer and a few good science journals, in Door County,
Wisconsin, a favorite family summer retreat.
The opportunity to teach and conduct research at the University of Alaska led John and the
family from Iowa to Fairbanks in 1991, where the family would be treated to John’s 2 AM wake-
up calls to see a particularly beautiful aurora. John balanced the duties of research, teaching,
and academic service in the UAF Physics Department and at the Geophysical Institute from
1991 till his retirement in 2009. John and Anthea’s house in Fairbanks became the gathering
place for many family celebrations, always well stocked with John’s favorite pinot noirs and love
of debate.
John’s family tentatively plans to hold a celebration of life in the summer of 2021. In lieu of yet
more beautiful flowers, Anthea requests donations be provided to the Fairbanks Rescue
Mission ( or the ALS Association (

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