Unquenchable curiosity led Barbara Strauch to delve into science's biggest mysteries -- and then explain these discoveries in clear and compelling language that transfixed even laymen.

"She was and remained enthusiastic about every moment of life," said her husband, Richard Breeden of Rye, New York. "I must say that she would have had to go a long way -- forever -- before she ever got bored."

As a New York Times science editor, Strauch shaped projects that explored physics' elusive Higgs boson particle, being a patient, caring for children struggling with mental illness and the war on cancer, the newspaper said.

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The Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, and science editor, Celia Dugger, in a note to the staff saluted her "determination to infuse science journalism with sophistication, heart and rigor."

Baquet added her last note to him said: "I've had more fun than I ever thought possible."

Strauch, 63, died at home Wednesday after breast cancer, defeated more than a dozen years ago, re-emerged, Breeden said.

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Though Strauch graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973 with a degree in English literature, she wrote two popular books on the brain, "The Primal Teen" and "The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind."

"My job, in part, is to ask the questions that less knowledgeable readers might ask, as well as provide another pair of eyes to make doubly sure our stories make sense to people without scientific backgrounds," she wrote in a 2009 New York Times online forum.

Strauch joined the Times as a media editor in 1995 and became an assistant editor on the national desk before running its health and medical coverage, the Times said in 2009.

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Previously, she spent 11 years with New York Newsday, where she helped lead the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 14th Street subway crash in 1991.

Deborah Henley, Newsday's editor, said: "Barbara's colleagues at New York Newsday knew her as an editor who inspired her reporters to take on the tough stories, encouraged revealing reporting and helped bring out their most compelling writing."

Strauch met her future husband when they both worked for the Westfield (Massachusetts) Evening News, said Breeden, a retired Wall Street Journal editor.

From there, the couple's twin careers in different departments took them to the New Hampshire Sunday News before Strauch joined The Boston Globe. Then, "We both decided, 'Let's do something different,' " Breeden said. So they joined the Caracas Daily Journal, an English-language Venezuelan newspaper, as editors.

The Houston Chronicle was their next stop, where Strauch helped cover NASA, a top assignment.

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"Houston at that time -- they weren't into the feminist thing so much, so she wanted to do a long piece on Sally Ride," the first American woman astronaut, recalled Breeden. Strauch went on to write stories about other women astronauts.

One of her last requests reveals how highly she valued family and friends. Breeden quoted her as saying: "In lieu of flowers, please take someone special out to dinner."

"Perhaps the word they would use now is luminescent personality," he added.

Strauch is survived by daughters Hayley of Rye and Meryl of Boston, and her brother Ron Strauch, of Peoria, Arizona. A memorial service will be held later.