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January 2017 HAD Meeting: Grapevine

All sessions and meetings in the Gaylord Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center

HAD I Session:  The 2017 Osterbrock Prize: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

Session #90: Tuesday. 2017 January 3, 2:30–4:30 pm (Texas 3 meeting room)
Session Chair: Jay Pasachoff (Williams College)

Presentation of the Osterbrock Prize and memorial to Prof. Donald Osterbrock

90.01   Osterbrock Prize Lecture: The Coming to Be of the Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers
2:30   Thomas A. Hockey (University of Northern Iowa)
The four-volume Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers (and cosmologists), second edition, is one of a kind: There is no discipline-specific counterpart in the physical or biological sciences. The BEA is the work of 430 authors, translators, and editors who produced biographies of approximately 1,800 persons, from the beginning of history to the beginning of the era of Big Science. How did this happen? The Editor-in-chief will give a “behind the pages” view of the construction of this first-look, first-reached-from-the-shelf reference work.
90.02   Keeping the Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers Relevant for a Generation
2:40   Marc Rothenberg (Smithsonian Institution)
The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers is a magnificent accomplishment, but like all such compilations, it faces potentially rapid obsolescence. Relying on my experience as an encyclopedia editor and a contributor to more than 20 other biographical reference works, I will highlight potential pitfalls for the BEA in the future and suggest ways in which the publisher can ensure that the BEA will continue to remain relevant for a generation.
90.03   Reading BEA II in Irvine (And Elsewhere)
3:45     Virginia L. Trimble (UC Irvine)
It is just possible that the number of BEA authors and editors exceeds the number of its readers, but I doubt this, having done all three. Perhaps unusually, I have gone through each edition page by page: BEA I several years ago, looking for what everybody who was alive at the time did during World War I, and BEA II just recently, in the process of compiling potted history of the development of stellar astronomy and astrophysics in Germany. Neither task would have been possible without BEA, which I therefore celebrate, along with Tom Hockey's enormous foresight, energy, and persistence. If we were starting over, I (and probably he!) would ask authors and editors for at least two things -- closer adherence to a format that puts the most notable work (why this person is here!) first, followed by "life" and "works" - and, where the information is available, what the person did or had happen that must surely have influenced life, beliefs, philosophy, what have you, beyond the scientific achievements. We know what Einstein,Karl Schwarzschild, and Rudolph Minkowski were doing in 1916, while a number of other articles have holes about that time. And it is obvious why Martin Schwarzschild and Hans Bethe ceased to be German  astronomers; not so obvious for others. And, while we are at it, what turned von Weizsäcker and Albert Wilson so firmly away from the science in which they had already left large footprints?

Panel Discussion


HAD II Session:  Infrared Astronomy from Above the Atmosphere

Session #111: Wednesday, January 4, 10:00-11:30 am (Texas 3 meeting room)
Session Chair: Martin Harwit

111.01   From Single Pixels to Many Megapixels: Progress in Astronomical Infrared Imaging from Space-borne Telescopes
10:00    Judith Pipher (Univ. of Rochester)
In the 1960s, rocket infrared astronomy was in its infancy. The Cornell group planned a succession of rocket launches of a small cryogenically cooled telescope above much of the atmosphere. Cornell graduate students were tasked with hand-making single pixel detectors for the focal plane at wavelengths ranging from ~5 microns to just short of 1 mm. “Images” could only be constructed from scans of objects such as HII regions/giant molecular clouds, the galactic center, and of diffuse radiation from the various IR backgrounds. IRAS and COBE, followed by the KAO utilized ever more sensitive single IR detectors, and revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. The first IR arrays came onto the scene in the early 1970s – and in 1983 several experiments for the space mission SIRTF (later named Spitzer Space Telescope following launch 20 years later) were selected, all boasting (relatively small) arrays. Europe’s ISO and Herschel also employed arrays to good advantage, as has SOFIA, and now, many –megapixel IR arrays are sufficiently well-developed for upcoming space missions.
111.02   NASA’s Kuiper Airborne Observatory 1974-1995 - Twenty One Years of Discovery
10:30   Edwin F. Erickson (NASA Ames Research Center)
The Gerard P. Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) forged a unique record in the annals of astronomy. Teams of scientists developed and flew with their specialized, state-of-the-art instruments to make observations not possible from the ground, at wavelengths from 0.3 μm to 1.6 mm. The talk will describe the KAO and its legacy of scientific findings, infrared instrumentation technology, experience for young astronomers and their impact on the field of infrared astronomy – and the rationale for SOFIA.
111.03   Small Can Be Beautiful: The NASA Lear Jet and the Initiation of Astronomical Far-Infrared Fine-Structure-Line Spectroscopy
11:00    Martin Harwit (Cornell University)
In the early 1970s, NASA offered infrared astronomers two new facilities --- a 30-cm telescope aboard the NASA Lear Jet, and a 91-cm telescope aboard the Kuiper Airborne Observatory --- for conducting far-infrared astronomical observations from altitudes ranging up to 12 km above sea level. Here I will describe the exceptional opportunities the Lear Jet offered our community for advancing the study of both cool/neutral and hot/ionized interstellar clouds through studies of previously inaccessible atomic and ionic far-infrared fine-structure cooling lines.


HAD Town Hall

Session #117: Wednesday, 2017 January 4, 12:45 - 1:45 pm (Texas 3 meeting room)
Session Chair: Ken Rumstay (Valdosta State University)


HAD III:  History

Session #129: Wednesday January 4, 2:00–3:30 p.m (Texas 3 meeting room)
Session Chair: Marc Rothenberg (Smithsonian Institution)

129.01   An Account of Stellar Spectroscopy and John S. Plaskett’s Leadership within Early 20th-Century Astrophysics in Canada
2:00     Andrew Ihor Oakes (University of Toronto)
From the perspective of the science of astronomy, the interpretation of the light spectrum was a fundamental development in the chemical analysis of celestial starlight. The breakthrough discovery with the application of spectroscopy in 1859, inaugurated a new period in astronomy that evolved into astrophysics. It launched a continuing episode of new astronomy that was later embraced in early 20 -century Canada where it was spearheaded by Canadian physicist and scientist, John S. Plaskett (1865-1941). The research work of John Plaskett at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, Ontario, from 1903 and, later, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia, from 1918, brought international recognition to Canada’s early efforts in astrophysics. Plaskett’s determination and personal boldness led to the establishment of a small cadre of Canadian astronomers who worked on their astrophysical research programs under Plaskett as their supervisor. Despite its small population at the time and a relatively infinitesimal number of professional astronomers, Canada did become recognized for its early spectrographic work in astrophysics, which was due to developing a professional status equal to its international colleagues. Plaskett improved the techniques of celestial spectroscopy during his scientific work at the Dominion Observatory and, again later, at its newly-built sister facility, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Historically, Plaskett found himself to be the right person, in the right place, at the right time, and with the right temperament during the review period spanning 1903 to 1935.
129.02   Under Connecticut Skies: : Exploring 100 Years of Astronomy at Van Vleck Observatory in Middletown, Connecticut
2:10    Roy E. Kilgard, Amrys Williams, Paul Erickson, William Herbst, and Seth Redfield (Wesleyan University)
Under Connecticut Skies examines the history of astronomy at Van Vleck Observatory, located on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Since its dedication in June of 1916, Van Vleck has been an important site.  of astronomical research, teaching, and public outreach. Over a thousand visitors pass through the observatory each year, and regular public observing nights happen year-round in cooperation with the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford. Our project explores the place-based nature of astronomical research, the scientific instruments, labor, and individuals that have connected places around the world in networks of observation, and the broader history of how observational astronomy has linked local people, amateur observers, professional astronomers, and the tools and objects that have facilitated their work under Connecticut’s skies over the past 100 years.
Our research team has produced a historical exhibition to help commemorate the observatory’s centennial that opened to the public in May of 2016. Our work included collecting, documenting, and interpreting this history through objects, archival documents, oral histories, photographs, and more. The result is both a museum and a working history "laboratory" for use by student and professional researchers. In addition to the exhibit itself, we have engaged in new interpretive programs to help bring the history of astronomy to life. Future work will include digitization of documents and teaching slides, further collection of oral histories, and expanding the collection to the web for use by off-site researches.
129.03   Building the Green Bank Telescope
  2:20    Kenneth I. Kellermann (NRAO)
In a previous presentation, I reported on how the freak collapse of the NRAO 300-ft transit radio telescope led to the inclusion of $75 million for a new radio telescope in the 1989 Congressional Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. But, this was only the beginning. NRAO was faced with challenging specifications and an unworkable schedule, but there was no design and no project team. Only one bid was even close to the Congressional appropriation. In an attempt to meet the unrealistic antenna delivery date, the contractor started construction of the foundation and fabrication of antenna members before the design was finished, leading to retrofits, redesign, and multiple delays. The antenna contractor was twice sold to other companies leading to further delays and cost escalation. In order to recoup their mounting losses, the new owners sued NRAO for $29 million for claimed design changes, and NRAO countersued demanding to be reimbursed for added project management costs and lost scientific data resulting from the seven-year delay in the completion of the telescope. Legal fees and a small net award in favor of the contractor left NRAO and the NSF with a nine million dollar bill which NSF handled by an innovative accounting adjustment.
129.04   The 2017 Eclipse: Centenary of the Einstein Light Deflection Experiment
2:30    Daniel Kennefick (University of Arkansas – Fayetteville)
August 21st, 2017 will see a total eclipse of the Sun visible in many parts of the United States. Coincidentally this date marks the centenary of the first observational attempt to test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity by measuring gravitational deflection of light by the Sun. This was attempted by the Kodaikanal Observatory in India during the conjunction of Regulus with the Sun in daylight on August 21st, 1917. The observation was attempted at the urging of the amateur German-British astronomer A. F. Lindemann, with his son, F. A. Lindemann, a well-known physicist, who later played a significant role as Churchill's science advisor during World War II. A century later Regulus will once again be in conjunction with the Sun, but by a remarkable coincidence, this will occur during a solar eclipse! Efforts will be made to measure the star deflection during the eclipse and the experiment is contrasted with the famous expeditions of 1919 which were the first to actually measure the light deflection, since the 1917 effort did not meet with success. Although in recent decades there have been efforts made to suggest that the 1919 eclipse team, led by Arthur Stanley Eddington and Sir Frank Watson Dyson, over-interpreted their results in favor of Einstein this talk will argue that such claims are wrong-headed. A close study of their data analysis reveals that they had good grounds for the decisions they made and this conclusion is reinforced by comparison with a modern re-analysis of the plates by the Greenwich Observatory conducted in 1977.
129.06   The Unlikely Origins of NASA’s “Search for Origins” Program
2:40    Mario R. Perez (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and Harley A. Thronson (NASA Headquarters)
NASA’s Origins Program for many years was by far one of the most important scientific initiatives in NASA’s history, linking together priority research campaigns in planetary science, astrophysics, and the biological sciences. It served also as an overarching description to the agency stakeholders of a new generation of major space missions and technology investments. Moreover, the Program, although no longer formally in existence, significantly influences multiple major science priorities for NASA even today. Remarkably, inception of NASA’s Origins Program — The Search for Our Cosmic Roots — two decades ago was initiated by the country’s political leadership, not by the scientific community, the National Academy of Sciences, or by an advisory panel of experts. Instead, it was an initiative by the White House in response to the stunning announcement of ‘evidence’ for life found on a Martian meteorite not long after the discovery of the first extrasolar planet orbiting a sun-like star. A White House memo dated in September 1996, written by John H. Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology to Dan Goldin, NASA Administrator at that time, called for a “Space Summit” that would include experts on three broad topics: the universe, planets, and life.
The summit was jointly organized by NASA and the National Research Council, and was chaired by Vice-President Al Gore in late October 1996. Three dozen biologists, planetary scientists, astronomers, and cosmologists participated. The outcome was the Origins Program, which has been a prominent part of NASA’s science program ever since, theme which is captured by the simple and profound questions: How Did We Get Here? and Are We Alone?
This particular initiative and its genesis demonstrates that science discoveries, followed by political activism and then executive orders can impact and shape for decades the paths to major science priorities, practices, and implementation. In this presentation, we summarize the inception of the Search for Origins initiative, especially its beginnings outside the scientific community, and its early justification and activities.
129.07   Recording of Supernovae in Rock Art, A Case Study at the Paint Rock Pictograph Site
2:50    Gordon L. Houston and Irakli Simonia (llia State University)
The Paint Rock pictographs in central Texas and their use as solar markers were formally reported for the first time by Dr. R. Robert Robbins at the 1999 AAS meeting #193 in Austin, Texas. He reported the operations of the winter solstice marker and suggested the possibility of more, including a summer solstice solar marker. Since this first report, there have been many informal studies of the Paint Rock site. In 1955, William C. Miller made the first interpretation of rock art as depicting images of the Crab supernova of AD 1054, which has produced many reports at other rock art sites in the American Southwest, including one at Paint Rock. All of these claims have a star and crescent configuration. Recently, these claims have been dismissed. We propose that the second panel at Paint Rock is representative of Tycho Brahe's supernovae SN1572. Miller set up a set of restrictions and criteria to evaluate these potential claims. We discuss Miller's criteria and two additional sets of criteria to evaluate representations of historical records of supernovae sightings. Two sets of characteristics of supernovae are provided, the first being galactic location and the second observational characteristics of naked eye supernovae. Employing astronomical software, we show that the panel at Paint Rock meets the restrictions and criteria discussed, that leads to high confidence in stating it records Tycho Brahe's supernova SN1572.
129.08   Thirty Years After Jack Eddy at the Big Horn Medicine Wheel
3:00    Ivy Merriot (Montana State University)
In the thirty years since John (Jack) Eddy’s work on the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, attention to the astronomy of medicine wheels went from high to low, with the lowest moment occurring during the ”welcome” talk of the Oxford IX International Archaeoastronomy (ISAAC) conference in Lima, Peru in 2011 when the wall-size projected image of the Big Horn Wheel carried a thick black “X” across its face.
The alignments proposed by Eddy in 1974 and by Robinson in the 1980s have been reviewed and analyzed at the Wheel on Medicine Mountain in situ under bitter cold, clear dark nights at 10,000 feet altitude. Research was conducted using naked eye skywatching, transit surveying, and a Meade Cassegraine 8” electronic telescope. Along with this “review” of 20 century research, new research was conducted Wheel causing the second decade of the 21st century to bring new physical evidence and historical information for consideration.
New research at the Big Horn Medicine Wheel gives evidence that the Wheel “mirrors” the night and daytime sky by creating a sky “grid” by its design made of basement and surface stones. The Wheel’s stone design mirrors the precession of the equinoxes by showing positions of all major pole stars over the full precessional cycle. Its twenty-eight sections are useful in the same way the twenty-eight sectioned Stations of the Moon star charts were useful in ancient and historical times.
This manner of dividing the sky for tracking celestial objects holds celestial markers in constant position over millennia. This occurs because the Wheel’s center represents the Sun’ ecliptic north pole. Star charts that use the ecliptic pole do not need constant mathematical computation to keep up with current declinations and right ascensions. The Wheel’s twenty-eight sectioned sky chart keeps the same Dec and RA for celestial positions for thousands of years and will more quickly alert the observer to changes due to proper motion than will our current Polaris-dependent Dec-RA system in use.
129.09   The Astronomy Genealogy Project: It's more than just tracing your ancestry
  3:10    Joseph S. Tenn (Sonoma State University) and the AstroGen Team
The Astronomy Genealogy Project ("AstroGen"), a project of the Historical Astronomy Division (HAD), will soon appear on the AAS website ( Ultimately, it will list the world's astronomers with their highest degrees, titles of theses for those who wrote them, academic advisors, universities, and links to the astronomers or their obituaries, their theses when online, and more. At present the AstroGen team is working on those who earned doctorates with astronomy-related theses. We show what can be learned already, with twelve countries essentially complete and about 19,000 theses recorded. For the twelve countries —Australia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States—half of the theses have been submitted since 1999, and more than 60% are online. We will present information comparing countries, universities, and eras. Nearly all information has been gathered online, and there is much more available. We are seeking people with knowledge of the languages and academic cultures of other countries to join us.


HAD IV:  Poster Session

Session #158: Wednesday, January 4, 2:30–4:30 p.m (Texas 3 meeting room)


158.01   This Month in Astronomical History: Preliminary Survey Results
              Teresa Wilson (Michigan Technological University)
This Month in Astronomical History is a short (~500 word) column on the AAS website that revisits significant astronomical events or the lives of people who have made a large impact on the field. The monthly column began in July 2016 at the request of the Historical Astronomical Division. Examples of topics that have been covered include Comet Shoemaker-Levy’s collision with Jupiter, the discovery of the moons of Mars, the life of Edwin Hubble, Maria Mitchell’s comet discovery, and the launch of Sputnik II. A survey concerning the column is in progress to ensure the column addresses the interests and needs of a broad readership, including historians, educators, research astronomers, and the general public. Eleven questions focus on the style and content of the column, while eight collect simple demographics. The survey has been available on the AAS website since and was mentioned in several AAS newsletters; however, non-members of AAS were also recruited to include respondents from a variety of backgrounds. Preliminary results of the survey are presented and will be used to hone the style and content of the column to serve the widest possible audience. Responses continue to be collected at: .
158.02   Oxford Astronomer John Knight Fotheringham (1874-1936) as Unwitting Godfather of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fictional Luni-solar Holiday “Durin’s Day”
              Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut State University)
It is well known that famed fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien incorporated a great deal of general astronomical knowledge into his Middle-Earth novels and other works, including references to the phases and motion of the moon, the seasonal cycle of the constellations, and the historical use of meteoritic iron. Various authors have also demonstrated his use of various scientific hypotheses of his time, such as Wegener’s continental drift and the conflicting pre-Apollo models of lunar formation, as well as specific astronomical events, such as the spectacular auroral displays in 1926, a December 8, 1927 lunar eclipse, and several spectacular comets visible in 1927. An astronomical mystery remains concerning one of Tolkien’s most famous works, The Hobbit (written between the summer of 1930 and January 1933, and finally published in 1937). One of the important plot points is a message hidden in an heirloom map that explains that the secret entrance to a treasure-loaded mountain kingdom can only been found with the last ray of sunlight on a holiday that is notoriously difficult to calculate, known as Durin’s Day. Tolkien scholars have pondered why the author transformed the date, initially the last ray of sunlight on the first day of the first lunar cycle of Autumn, into a complex affair that was difficult to predict. This presentation summarizes evidence that the answer involves Tolkien’s probable knowledge of highly publicized work by his Oxford colleague, J.K.  Fotheringham, on not only the visibility of the young waxing crescent moon, but the importance of lunar phases in dating historical events, including the crucifixion (research that would have keenly resonated with the devout Tolkien). In addition, Tolkien was involved in university politics at the same time that Fotheringham was (unsuccessfully) maneuvering to become the avilian Professor of Astronomy, namely 1930-1, the years of the early work on The Hobbit
158.03   Caroline Furness and the Evolution of Visual Variable Star Observing
              Kristine Larsen (Central Connecticut State University)
An Introduction to the Study of Variable Stars by Dr. Caroline Ellen Furness (1869-1936), Director of the Vassar College Observatory, was published in October 2015. Issued in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Vassar College, the work was meant to fill a void in the literature, namely as both an introduction to the topic of variable stars as well as a manual explaining how they should be observed and the resulting data analyzed. It was judged to be one of the hundred best books written by an American woman in the last hundred years at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. The book covers the relevant history of and background on types of variable stars, star charts, catalogs, and the magnitude scale, then describes observing techniques, including visual, photographic, and photoelectric photometry. The work finishes with a discussion of light curves and patterns of variability, with a special emphasis on eclipsing binaries and long period variables. Furness’s work is therefore a valuable snapshot of the state of astronomical knowledge, technology, and observing techniques from a century ago. Furness’s book and its reception in the scientific community are analyzed, and parallels with (and departures from) the current advice given by the AAVSO to beginning variable star observers today are highlighted.
158.04   Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude: U.S. Naval Observatory Observations of Solar Eclipses 1869 to the Present
              Malynda R. Chizek Frouard , Linda Towne, George H. Kaplan (US Naval Observatory)
In anticipation of the 2017 August 21 total solar eclipse over the continental United States, the history of U.S. Naval Observatory eclipse observations illustrates the changes in science, technology, and policy over the past 148 years.
USNO eclipse observations began in 1869, when staff traveled to Des Moines, Iowa and the Bering Strait to look for intra-mercurial planets and to observe the solar corona. During the golden age of eclipse expeditions, the USNO officially participated in a dozen expeditions between 1869 and 1929. Seven of these expeditions were to US locations: 1869 in Iowa; 1878 in Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas; 1880 in California; 1900 in Georgia and North Carolina; 1918 in Oregon; 1923 in California; and 1925 in New York. A total solar eclipse has not traced a path across the width of the continental US since 1918 although several eclipses have passed over parts of the US since then.
A few official expeditions occurred later in the 20th century to measure the solar diameter, including a total eclipse in the northwest US in 1979 and an annular eclipse across the southeast in 1984. However, observations began transitioning to mostly personal adventures as individual astronomers arranged unofficial trips.
Historians can use the USNO Multi-year Interactive Computer Almanac (MICA) to compute local circumstances for solar eclipses world-wide starting with the annual eclipse of 1800 April 24, which was visible from Alaska. Those looking to make history in 2017 may consult the USNO 2017 August 21 Solar Eclipse Resource page  (
158.05   Instrumentation for Infrared Astronomy in the Collections of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
              David H. DeVorkin (Smithsonian Institution)
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution is responsible for preserving the material heritage of modern astronomical history. We place emphasis on American accomplishments, on both airborne and spaceborne instrumentation, and on ground based instrumentation that stimulated and supported spaceborne efforts. At present the astronomical collection includes over 600 objects, of which approximately 40 relate to the history of infrared astronomy. This poster will provide a simple listing of our holdings in infrared and far-infrared astronomy, and will highlight particularly significant early objects, like Cashman and Ektron cells, Leighton and Neugebauer's Caltech 2.2 micron survey telescope, Low's Lear Jet Bolometer, Harwit's first Aerobee IR payload and Fazio's balloon-borne observatory. Elements from more recent missions will also be included, such as instruments from KAO, an IRAS focal plane instrument, FIRAS from COBE, the payload from Boomerang and Woody and Richards' balloonsonde payload. The poster author will invite AAS members to comment on these holdings, provide short stories of their experiences building and using them, and suggest candidates for possible collection.
158.06   Airborne Infrared Astronomical Telescopes
              Edwin F. Erickson (NASA Ames Research Center)
A unique program of infrared astronomical observations from aircraft evolved at NASA’s Ames Research Center, beginning in the 1960s. Telescopes were flown on a Convair 990, a Lear Jet, and a Lockheed C-141 - the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) – leading to the planning and development of SOFIA: a 2.7 m telescope now flying on a Boeing 747SP. The poster describes these telescopes and highlights of some of the scientific results obtained from them.
158.07   Urania in the Marketplace: The Blue Comet (A Railroad’s Astronomical Heritage)
              Kenneth S. Rumstay (Valdosta State University)
Between 1929 February 21 and 1941 September 27 the Central New Jersey Railroad operated a luxury passenger train between Jersey City and Atlantic City. Named The Blue Comet, the locomotive, tender, and coaches sported a unique royal blue paint scheme designed to evoke images of celestial bodies speeding through space. Inside each car were etched window panes and lampshades featuring stars and comets. Each coach sported the name of a famous comet on its side; these comets were of course named for their discoverers. Some of the astronomers honored in this unique fashion remain famous to this day, or at least their comets do. The names D’Arrest, Barnard, Encke, Faye, Giacobini, Halley, Olbers, Temple, Tuttle, and Westphal are familiar ones. But Biela, Brorsen, deVico, Spitaler, and Winnecke have now largely faded into obscurity; their stories are recounted here.                                                                                      Although more than seventy years have elapsed since its last run, The Blue Comet , perhaps the most famous passenger train in American history, lives on in the memories of millions of passengers and railfans. This famous train returned to the attention of millions of television viewers on the evening of 2007 June 3, in an episode of the HBO series The Sopranos.

This work was supported by a faculty development grant from Valdosta State University.