Lawrence H. Aller, 89, a high school dropout who became a UCLA astronomy professor and was instrumental in developing the university's astronomy department, died Sunday of heart failure at his home in Malibu.
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Aller went to work as a gold miner and never finished high school. Later, he impressed a UC Berkeley professor with his knowledge of astronomy and talked his way into the university, earning a bachelor's degree there in 1936. He went on to Harvard, where he trained in atomic physics and astronomy, earning his master's degree in 1938 and a PhD in 1942.
After teaching at Indiana University and the University of Michigan, Aller came to UCLA in 1962 as a professor of astronomy. He chaired the department from 1963 to 1968 and helped develop UCLA's PhD program.
Among Aller's honors was his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961 and to the National Academy of Science in 1962. Aller retired in 1984, but continued to teach into the mid-1990s.