Wolfe, who spent a decade as director of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the UC San Diego, died Monday in La Jolla, Calif., of cancer, the university said Thursday.
He was 74.
"Art Wolfe was a big thinker," Mark Thiemens, dean of the UC San Diego Division of Physical Sciences, said. "He wrestled with understanding how galaxies were formed and evolved. And he peered back in time 10 to 15 billion years to develop new ideas about the early universe. He was a leading force at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. All of us on campus benefited from his presence, research and leadership."
Born in New York City in 1939, Wolfe received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1961 from City College of New York's Queens College, a master's degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1963 and his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin in 1967.
Trained as a theoretical physicist, Wolfe made fundamental contributions to both theoretical general relativity and observational astronomy.
In 1989 he accepted a professorship in the Physics Department at UC San Diego and become director of Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences in 1997.
He retired last March.
"Art was a true leader in the fields of cosmology and extra-galactic astronomy," said J. Xavier Prochaska, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz who, as a former graduate student, was one of the many prominent scientists Wolfe had mentored. "He influenced the research of hundreds of colleagues with his deep physical insight and was a terrific mentor to young researchers."