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 Olivier Le Fèvre

Publication date : 26 June 2020

Olivier Le Fèvre passed away on June 25, 2020 at the age of 59. He had been fighting brain cancer with courage and lucidity for the past 2 and a half years.

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A register of Condolence is available at this link. Funeral information is given at the bottom of this page.

Olivier Le Fèvre was a pioneer and passionate promoter of multi-object spectroscopy on the ground and in space, and one of the founding fathers of observational cosmology based on large galaxy surveys.

After a thesis carried out between Toulouse and Meudon, Olivier Le Fèvre started his career as resident astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Observatory (CFH) on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is at the CFH, with French and Canadian colleagues, that he initiated a large survey of galaxies (the Canada-France Redshift Survey) with the MOS-SIS multi-object spectrograph. Large spectroscopic surveys of galaxies will be his trademark and make his international reputation. Back in France in 1994, he initiated the design and construction of a multi-object spectrograph (VIMOS) for the Very Large Telescope (VLT), then under construction in Chile. This is with this instrument, and as its principal investigator, that he began in the early 2000s fifteen years of large cosmological surveys with various international collaborations (VVDS, VUDS, VIPERS, zCOSMOS, etc.). In his wake, he led and trained generations of students, researchers and engineers throughout the world. When thousands of galaxies were not enough for him, he observed ten thousands of them; when ten thousands were not enough, he observed hundred thousands of them. He did similarly to go as far back in time as possible, eventually reaching the youngest galaxies at the edge of the Universe. Olivier Le Fèvre and his collaborators have profoundly changed our understanding of the evolution of galaxies and of their build-up within the large-scale structures of the Universe. A constant pattern of his scientific approach was his unwavering attachment to observations and their data. He only trusted their ultimate verdict, refusing any attempt at biasing them under any circumstance. The excellence of his scientific work earned him many awards and honours. He was one of the most highly cited French astronomers.

An amateur astronomer before becoming a professional, astronomy and the observation of the sky were his passion. With constant determination, Olivier Le Fèvre proposed new instruments for the largest telescopes on the ground and in space. He played a decisive role in the selection of the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, and in the selection of instruments for NASA’s JWST mission and for the Japanese Subaru telescope installed in Hawaii. He will miss the upcoming excitement of the astrophysics community in 2 years’ time when the Euclid mission starts accumulating 30 million galaxy spectra or when JWST starts discovering the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

"Manager during the day and researcher at night" in his own words, Olivier Le Fèvre was director of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM) between 2004 and 2011. In 2008, he managed LAM’s installation in a new building of the highest international standard. He has tirelessly promoted astronomy and astrophysics in national and international bodies and agencies. He was a member of numerous scientific and strategic committees around the world, such as the Council of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Despite being offered prestigious directorships in Europe, Olivier Le Fèvre always preferred to promote the local and national prestige. He was deeply attached to the French art de vivre and to the region of Marseilles, which he joined in 1997 and never left since. He loved this region, which he never stopped exploring inland by bike and windsurfing from the sea.

Our community has lost a great scientist and one of its most ardent defenders. Our condolences and sympathy go to his family and his two daughters, Stéphanie and Luana.

The funeral of Olivier Le Fèvre will take place on Monday morning, June 29, 2020.

Placement in coffin and last tribute: 10:00 to 10:30, Chambre funéraire du Beausset, 125 avenue du Souvenir Français, 83330 Le Beausset. (on google-maps)
Religious Ceremony: 11am at the Saint-Anne du Castellet Chapel, 458 chemin de La Chapelle - 83330 Sainte-Anne-du-Castellet. (on google-maps)
Refreshments will be served at the end of the religious ceremony, at Olivier’s place at 608 avenue du Mistral - Le Brulat, 83330 Le Castellet. (on google-maps)

The cremation of the body will take place in the intimacy of the family. His ashes will be scattered at sea.

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