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2008 Doggett Prize Winner - David Hyam DeVorkin

David Hyam DeVorkin Awarded the 2008 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize

by Donald K. Yeomans

The Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded the sixth LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy to Dr. David DeVorkin. This prize was given for "his seminal work in illuminating the origins and development of modern astrophysics and the origins of the space sciences during the twentieth century." Dr. DeVorkin’s many research papers, books, and monographs have provided a detailed, scholarly and yet interesting history of twentieth century space science and astrophysics and the roles of the military, religion, government, the world wars and the power brokers in the development of these fields. His 2000 biography of Henry Norris Russell was critically acclaimed and resulted in two major exhibitions as well as several smaller ones. Based upon a wide variety of well documented sources, including archival correspondence and oral histories, this landmark biography illuminated much of the history of astrophysics in the first half of the 20th century. His popular historical articles have engaged the public, and through his curatorial role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum he has made astronomy come alive for millions of interested museum visitors.

David holds a PhD in the history of astronomy from the University of Leicester (1978), a Master of Philosophy in Astronomy from Yale University (1970), and a BS is Astronomy/Physics from UCLA (1966). His works have appeared in a very diverse range of journals including the Journal for the History of Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Isis, Scientific American, Minerva, Science, and Physics Today. Since 1981, he has been curator of history of astronomy and the space sciences at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

David is well known to HAD members, having served on the HAD Committee (1981-83), and as HAD Secretary/Treasurer (1985-93), Vice-Chair (1995-97), and Chair (1997-99). In response to the AAS Executive Committee's request for a proposal concerning the issues of preserving historical astronomical sites, facilities, equipment, and archives, Steve McClusky and David were largely responsible for drafting the response including the six recommendations. (See HAD News #70, p. 10-11). As a result of this report, a Working Group on the Preservation of Astronomical Heritage was established, and David currently serves on this Working Group. One of the most active and enthusiastic HAD members, David has organized, and participated in, many meeting sessions, including "The History of Space Science" at the January 2006 meeting and "Case Studies in How 20th Century Observatory Directors were Chosen" at the January 2007 meeting.