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January 2018 HAD Meeting: National Harbor

HAD I:  The Future of Astronomy's Archived Observations –An Open Discussion

Monday.  January 8, 2:00–4:00 pm (National Harbor 2 meeting room)
Session Chair: Sara Schechner (Harvard University)

Description: A give and take discussion concerning the current state of astronomy’s photographic plate archives and plans for ensuring the long-term preservation of these irreplaceable observations and historical records.  The following topics will be introduced by brief – perhaps provocative – statements from experts followed by round table discussions/debates by those attending.

1.  Why preserve astronomy’s photographic plates and their related artifacts (e.g., log books, plate markings, envelope annotations)? The present scientific and historical value of plate material, anticipated future uses and the current, in many cases potentially grave, situation regarding this under-utilized resource with examples.

2.  What needs to be done to preserve as much of the plates’ information content as possible and reasonable? Best practices for the preservation and storage of plates and their associated documentation, cataloguing the holdings of plate archives for public access, cleaning and handling of plates and digitization of plates and documents in accord with scientific, archival and historical standards. Balancing best practices with practical constraints.

3.  How might the challenges of preserving this irreplaceable astronomical information be overcome?  Problems of funding, adequate manpower, centralized versus individual archives and the rapidly disappearing knowledge about extant plate archives and the technical details of photographic observations.

The organizers want this session both to raise awareness of a critical issue and to help in the formulation of general guidelines for plate archive preservation. Input from the HAD will be particularly valuable, as will add a unique perspective. What is learned from the session will assist in developing a statement expressing the duty of the astronomical community, both collectively and individually, to protect its heritage of artifacts and irreproducible observations.

This will be YOUR session. Progress comes through interactive debate, so bring your queries, questions, comments, ideas and suggestions to the meeting and share them whenever the opportunity arises. Individuals wishing to be sure they are called on to make a specific point should contact the session chair.

The expert panel:

•   Sara Schechner (museum curator and historian, Harvard) – moderator
•   Michael Castelaz (Brevard College and PARI Plate Archive Center)
•   Elizabeth Griffin (plate user as stellar spectroscopist, DAO)
•   Josh Grindlay (DASCH digitization project director, Harvard)
•   Omar Nasim (user of plates for history research, U. Regensberg)
•   Wayne Osborn (user of plates for astronomy research; astronomical plate curator, Yerkes)
•   Arnold Rots (archive astrophysicist, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Harvard)
•   Brad Schaefer (user of direct plates for astronomy research, Louisiana State U.)
•   Kevin Schindler (historian, Lowell Observatory)
This session is endorsed by the AAS Working Group for the Preservation of Astronomical Heritage.


Working Group for the Preservation of Astronomical Heritage Meeting

Monday, January 8, 6:00-7:00 pm (Chesapeake meeting room)
Meeting Chair: Jennifer Bartlett

The Working Group for Preservation of Astronomical Heritage (WGPAH) is responsible for developing and disseminating procedures, criteria and priorities for identifying, designating, and preserving astronomical structures, instruments, and records so that they will continue to be available for astronomical and historical research, for the teaching of astronomy, and for outreach to the general public. We welcome anyone interested in these topics to participate in our discussions.  However, voting rights are limited to the formal members of the Working Group.


HAD II:  From the Earliest Astronomy to Space Missions: Explorations in the History of Astronomy

Session #108: Tuesday, January 9, 10:00-11:30 am (National Harbor 2 meeting room)
Session Chair: Marc Rothenberg

108.01   The Early Astronomy Toolkit was Universal
10:00     Bradley E. Schaefer   (Louisiana State University)
We can reconstruct the general properties of the earliest astronomy for many cultures worldwide, and they all share many similar characteristics. The 'Early Astronomy Toolkit' has a flat Earth, a domed heaven, with eclipses/comets/meteors always being very bad omens. All cultures had constellations, vague luni-solar calendars, and timekeeping from star risings and sun altitude/azimuth observations. This basic Early Astronomy Toolkit was universal up until the Greeks, Mesopotamians, and Chinese broke out after 500 BC. This survived outside the Eurasian milieu up until ~1600 AD. The universality of these many features suggests that the Early Astronomy Toolkit originated very long ago.
108.02   William Herschel and Comets
10:20     W.T. Sullivan, III   (University of Washington)
I examine the observational and theoretical researches of William Herschel on 21 comets that he observed over the period 1781 to 1812. Herschel's focus, unlike most contemporaries, was on their physical structure, not their orbits. He forged a strong connection between comets and his nebulae with a scheme of cometary "maturation" (1812) involved a comet travelling from star to star after its central "planetary body" was born from gravitational collapse of a nebula. During close passages of a star, the comet brightened and lost mass from its atmosphere; at other times, when between stars, it encountered nebulae and was rejuvenated by picking up more mass. Laplace soon adopted these ideas to improve his nebula hypothesis for solar system formation.
108.03   Benjamin Banneker’s 18th Century Astronomy
10:40     Sethanne Howard   (U.S. Naval Observatory)
Benjamin Banneker is considered to be the first African-American man of science (1731-1806), a contemporary of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He was a self-taught clock maker, mathematician, and astronomer. He owned land in Baltimore County near Ellicott City, Maryland where he farmed tobacco. He is especially known for his work on the Boundary Survey of our new Capital. Surveyors place boundary stones along the boundary of the nascent Capital. Banneker was part of the team who measured the latitude and longitude for each stone. Using 18th century surveying techniques Banneker became part of the early history of Washington DC. He also published popular almanacs.
108.04   The Evolution of Spacelab Ultraviolet Astronomy Missions from OSS-3 through -7 to Astro-1
11:00     Theodore Gull   (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA was building towards a robust program in space astronomy. An evolutionary step from ground-based astronomy to space astronomy was human operation of space telescopes as astronomy in general evolved from astronomers directly at the telescope to application of computers and long distance communications to control to operate remote telescopes. Today ground-based telescopes and space observatories from cubesats to the Hubble Space Telescope and soon the James Webb Space Telescope are routinely operated remotely. In response to the Spacelab Announcement of Opportunity in the early 1980s, three ultraviolet experiments – the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope and the Wisconsin Ultraviolet PhotoPolarimetry Experiment -- all instruments derived from multiple sounding rocket flights--were selected to fly as an integrated payload attached to a space shuttle. The justification for professional astronomers, both as Mission Specialists from the astronaut cadre and Payload Specialists from the instrument teams, was built to ensure key technical skills both of the science and the instruments. Bundled together as OSS-3 through -7 flights focused on Comet Halley, the experiments went through many changes and delays as a pathfinder for an anticipated series of attached astronomy payloads. By 1986, the five-flight mission had evolved into two missions, Astro-1 dedicated primarily to observe Halley’s Comet in early March 1986 and Astro-2 to fly about one year later. Due to the Challenger disaster 35 days before scheduled launch of Astro-1, the mission went through an initial cancellation and then re-scheduling once the instrument complement of Astro-1 was expanded to include Broad Band X-ray Telescope with emphasis on studying SN1987A. Ultimately Astro-1 flew in December 1990 partnered with an X-ray experiment focused on SN1987A. The nine-day mission was mostly successful despite multiple technical issues overcome by the NASA and instrument teams. Dozens of refereed papers results and five years later, Astro-2, with the three ultraviolet instruments accomplished a seventeen-day mission.

11:20 am Discussion


HAD Town Hall

Session #119: Tuesday, January 9, 12:45 - 1:45 pm
Session Chair: Ken Rumstay (Valdosta State University)


HAD III:  History, Eclipses,  and Planetaria

Session #126: Tuesday, January 9, 2:00–3:30 pm (National Harbor 2 meeting room)
Session Chair: Pedro Raposo (Adler Planetarium)

126.01   Television as an Aid to Astronomy
2:00        Samantha Thompson   (American Institute of Physics)
In the late nineteenth-century, readily available dry, gelatin-based photographic emulsions revolutionized astronomy. Photography not only provided a permanent record, but also allowed for integration over extended exposures, helping astronomers observe fainter objects than possible with the eye alone. In 1942, television pioneer Vladimir Zworykin, patented the Telelectroscope, an electronic telescope which removed the observer from the eyepiece and replaced photographic emulsion with a television camera. By the mid-1950s, the astronomical community had developed a growing interest in the possible uses of television technology and at the 1955 Dublin meeting of the IAU, a special session was devoted to the application of television in astronomy. Here, I will examine the use of commercially-available television camera tubes by professional and amateur astronomers and explain how results from these early observations encouraged the astronomical community to further test, design, and build electronic imaging devices specifically for astronomical use.
126.02   The Legacy of the Georgetown College Observatory (D.C.)
2:10       Laura Caron   (Georgetown University)
Founded in 1841 as part of a nascent worldwide network of Jesuit-run astronomical observatories, the Georgetown College Observatory of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. has been home to more than 125 years of astronomical research, from Father Curley’s calculations of the latitude and longitude of D.C. to Father McNally’s award-winning solar eclipse photography. But the impact of the Georgetown astronomy program was not limited to the observatory itself: it reached much further, into the local community and schools, and into the lives of everyone involved. This was never more apparent than under the directorship of Father Francis J Heyden, S.J., who arrived at Georgetown after World War II and stayed for almost three decades. He started a graduate program with over 90 graduates, hosting student researchers from local high schools and colleges, teaching graduate and undergraduate astronomy courses, and speaking at schools in the area, all while simultaneously managing Georgetown’s student radio station and hosting astronomical conferences on campus. Father Heyden’s research focused mainly on solar eclipses for geodetic purposes and planetary spectroscopy. But perhaps even more than research, Father Heyden dedicated his time and energy to the astronomy students, the notable of which include Vera Rubin, John P. Hagen of Project Vanguard, and a generation of Jesuit astronomers including Martin McCarthy, George Coyne, and Richard Boyle. Following the closure of the astronomy department in 1972, Father Heyden returned to Manila, where he had begun his astronomical career, to become Chief of the Solar Division at the Manila Observatory. His dedication to his work and to students serves as an inspiration for academic researchers across fields, and for the Georgetown University Astronomical Society, which, even in the absence of a formal astronomy program at Georgetown, continues his work in education and outreach today. In 1987, almost 150 years after its founding, Georgetown College Observatory was rededicated in Father Heyden’s name.
126.03   The Planetarium and the Carl Zeiss Corporation, 1923-1933
2:20        Katherine Boyce-Jacino   (Johns Hopkins University)
The Carl Zeiss Company of Jena, Germany, introduced the first prototype planetarium in the fall of 1923. By 1933, there were a dozen planetaria in Germany alone, and nearly a dozen more abroad. This talk argues that on one hand, Zeiss saw the planetarium as an opportunity to reintroduce German engineering to a skeptical international market. On the other, Zeiss recognized that a large part of the planetarium’s domestic appeal lay in the romance of its German origins. Through an examination of Zeiss’ corporate correspondence, propaganda, and contemporary international and domestic press, this talk argues that in advertising the planetarium in Germany and abroad, the Zeiss company relied on competing constructions of a post-war German identity rooted in conflicting understandings of space.
126.04   Whither a "National Planetarium"?
2:30       David DeVorkin   (National Air and Space Museum)
In Spring 1927 Zeiss contacted the Smithsonian Institution about its new wonderful planetarium projector, sending along brochures and testimonials from astronomers. By the end of the year after much back and forth, Zeiss even found backers to underwrite the planetarium for the Smithsonian, feeling that the first planetarium should be built in Washington. Over the following decades, the push for a “national planetarium” revived several times, as a possible option for Jefferson’s Memorial or as a commercial enterprise to revitalize the southwest quadrant of the city. It was even the topic for a student essay contest. Nothing caught on, though planetariums soon proved to be wildly popular in the cities that nurtured them. Here I’ll outline the efforts for Washington, D.C. and ask what the campaigns reveal about the perception of astronomy on the National Mall.
126.05   Griffith Observatory: Hollywood's Celestial Theater
2:40       Emily Margolis   (Johns Hopkins University)
The Griffith Observatory, perched atop the Hollywood Hills, is perhaps the most recognizable observatory in the world. Since opening in 1935, this Los Angeles icon has brought millions of visitors closer to the heavens. Through an analysis of planning documentation, internal newsletters, media coverage, programming and exhibition design, I demonstrate how the Observatory’s Southern California location shaped its form and function. The astronomical community at nearby Mt. Wilson Observatory and Caltech informed the selection of instrumentation and programming, especially for presentations with the Observatory’s Zeiss Planetarium, the second installed in the United States. Meanwhile the Observatory staff called upon some of Hollywood’s best artists, model makers, and scriptwriters to translate the latest astronomical discoveries into spectacular audiovisual experiences, which were enhanced with Space Age technological displays on loan from Southern California’s aerospace companies. The influences of these three communities- professional astronomy, entertainment, and aerospace- persist today and continue to make Griffith Observatory one of the premiere sites of public astronomy in the country.
126.06   "Spacearium" and the Educational Mission of the National Air and Space Museum
2:50       Jieun Shin   (University of Minnesota)
After a campaign that lasted over a decade, in 1971 the Washington Planetarium and Space Center decided to transfer all of its assets to the Smithsonian to be part of its proposed new National Air and Space Museum (NASM), itself recently redefined from being known as the National Air Museum. Here I will argue that the addition of a planetarium, which they called a “Spacearium,” reflected a new goal of the Smithsonian to emphasize the educational mission of the new museum and thereby secure positive attention from Congress and the aerospace industry, hastening the appropriations process.
126.07   Two Commemorative Expeditions to Celebrate the Return to Totality
3:00      Kristen Thompson   (Davidson College)
Throughout history, total solar eclipses have generated excitement across the scientific community, as they provide a unique opportunity to study the Sun’s corona. Occurrences of such events have prompted many American astronomy programs to organize expeditions aimed at studying and photographing the eclipse. Only two observing stations from any of the major 19th and early 20th century eclipse expeditions were once again found in the path of totality of the 21 August 2017 Great American Eclipse. These stations, one in Newberry, SC and the other in Winnsboro, SC, were located in the shadow of the 28 May 1900 eclipse that passed through the southeastern United States from New Orleans to Norfolk. To celebrate this unique opportunity, we organized two expeditions that travelled to these towns to commemorate their return to totality. In this talk, I will describe the circumstances of the 1900 solar eclipse, our modern expeditions, and our effort to bring this eclipse history to life for the community.
126.08   Determining the Edges of the Path of Totality on August 21, 2017
3:10      David Dunham   (KinetX, Inc.)
The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) attempted a citizen-science project to determine the locations of the edges of the path of totality, similar to what was done visually in New York City during the 1925 eclipse. With ubiquitous smart phones, we asked observers to record the eclipse, preferably with clip-on 8x telephoto lenses. The limits are not sharp since the solar intensity drops off gradually at the path edges. We hoped to determine how accurately the path edges could be determined, and the width of their “fuzziness”. But it was not possible to find any astronomers who weren’t also going to the center, who might otherwise help organize some path edge observations. In 1925, people were less concerned about the possibility of suffering eye damage from quick glimpses at the eclipse. In 2017, several were concerned about damage to their cell phones, although our tests showed this was not a problem for the two minutes desired. The only successes were at Minden, Nebraska where high school students set up 15 stations across the southern limit and recorded the eclipse with iPads, and near Wheatland, Wyoming, where Jan Kok set up 21 pre-pointed smart phones with 8x lenses that he was able to program, to record the eclipse during the critical two minutes. We found that the dynamic range of the smart phone recordings could not distinguish between the corona, and the Baily’s beads around the contacts, so useful times of the duration of “totality” could not be determined. A few IOTA observers recorded Baily’s beads telescopically at a few locations near the eclipse limits. An especially good color recording of Baily’s beads was made by Fred Bruenjes from only 1.3 km inside the southern limit. We hope that similar recordings with accurate time stamping can be obtained at a few locations near both limits of future eclipses. Even better might be recordings of the flash spectrum near both limits, to measure the transition from absorption lines in the photosphere to emission lines of the chromosphere.


HAD IV:  Poster Session

Session #143: Tuesday, January 9, 9:00–10:00 am and 5:30–6:30 pm  (Prince Georges Exhibit Hall)

143.01      The Future of Past Skies: Historical Celestial Cartography at the Adler Planetarium
Pedro Raposo   (Adler Planetarium)
The Adler Planetarium is home to a world-class collection of scientific instruments, rare books and works on paper. Since 2014, Adler staff has been digitizing a wide selection of items relating to celestial cartography, including: more than 236 rare books and atlases; 97 works on paper; globes and other artifacts, amounting to 58 objects; and approximately 3,750 Carte du Ciel prints. This work has been carried out under the auspices of the Celestial Cartography Digitization Project (CCDP), which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This poster presentation will include: 1) an update on the project; 2) a description of related resources and tools available to the research community; 3) examples of how the Adler Planetarium is integrating the history of celestial cartography with its public programs; 4) an overview of a prospective citizen science project involving the identification of constellations in historical atlases and charts.
143.02      The Discovery of Gravitational Repulsion by Johannes Droste
Charles McGruder   (Western Kentucky University)
In 1687 Newton published his universal law of gravitation, which states that the gravitational force is always attractive. This law is based on our terrestrial experience with slowly moving bodies (v << c). In 1915 Einstein completed his theory of general relativity (also referred to as Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation), which is valid not just for slowly moving bodies but also for those with relativistic velocities. In 1916 Johannes Droste submitted a PhD thesis on general relativity to his advisor, H.A. Lorentz. In it he calculated the motion of a particle in what he called a “single center” and today we call the Schwarzschild field and found that highly relativistic particles experience gravitational repulsion. Thus, his thesis written in Dutch and never before translated contains the discovery of gravitational repulsion.
Because of its historical importance we translate the entire section of his thesis containing the discovery of gravitational repulsion. We also translate his thesis in the hope of clearing up a major historical misconception. Namely, that David Hilbert in 1917 discovered gravitational repulsion. In fact, Hilbert rediscovered it, apparently completely independent of Droste’s work. Finally we note that one of the biggest mysteries of astrophysics is the question of how highly energetic particles in relativistic jets and cosmic rays are accelerated. It has been suggested that gravitational repulsion is the mechanism responsible for these phenomena. An historical understanding of gravitational repulsion is therefore pertinent.
143.03      Project PHaEDRA: Preserving Harvard's Early Data and Research in Astronomy
Daina Bouquin   (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Material originally produced during 19th and early 20th century by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) was recently re-discovered in the HCO Astronomical Plate Stacks collection. This material helps represent the history of the HCO and acts as an irreplaceable primary source on the evolution of observation methods and astronomy as a science. The material is also relevant to the history of women in science as the collection contains logbooks and notebooks produced by the Harvard Computers, women who have come back into the spotlight due to the recent release of books like "The Glass Universe," "Rise of the Rocket Girls," and movies like "Hidden Figures".
To ensure that this remarkable set of items is as accessible and useful as possible Wolbach Library, in collaboration with the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) and others, is working to catalog, digitize, and preserve the entire collection. The material is also being transcribed by volunteers through the Smithsonian Transcription Center in DC. The transcription will allow the collection to be full-text searchable in ADS and for the notebooks to eventually be linked to their original source material: 500,000 glass plate photographs representing the first ever picture of the visible universe. The novel workflow of this distributed repository and the significance of the PHaEDRA collection both stand to support the research of future generations.
143.04      This Month in Astronomical History: Providing Context for the Advancement of Astronomy
Teresa Wilson   (Michigan Technological University)
This Month in Astronomical History is a short (~500 word) illustrated column hosted on the AAS website ( Its mission is to highlight people and events that have shaped the development of astronomy to convey a historical context to current researchers, to provide a resource for education and public outreach programs seeking to incorporate a historical perspective, and to share the excitement of astronomy with the public. Knowing how the astronomical journey has proceeded thus far allows current professionals to map where to go next and how to get there. The column charts the first part of this journey by celebrating anniversaries of births, discoveries, and deaths, and the technological advances that made discoveries possible. A new “Further Reading” section encourages readers to pursue subjects in greater depth and strengthens the articles as classroom resources. In the months preceding the 21 August 2017 solar eclipse, the column featured astronomical bodies that come between Earth and the Sun: 2004 Venus transit, the 1878 solar eclipse, and the search for the hypothetical planet Vulcan. Venusian transits were an early but technically challenging way to measure the astronomical unit, now easily done with radar-ranging. Like this year’s event, eclipse chasing and citizen science were part of the 1878 experience. Newton’s Laws seemed to require a planet inside Mercury’s orbit, but General Relativity explained the behavior of Mercury without it. Studying each of these transiting bodies has expanded our knowledge and understanding of the universe differently. Transiting extrasolar planets remain to be explored in a future column. In September, an article on the discovery of Neptune followed the discussion of the non-existent Vulcan quite naturally and expanded on the brief mention of this event in relation to the discovery of Pluto. Suggestions for additional topics are always welcome. The Dudley Observatory supported This Month in Astronomical History through its 2017 Herbert C. Pollock Award. The author thanks the HAD Executive Committee for their careful review of each edition.
143.05      The History of the CONCAM Project: All Sky Monitors in the Digital Age
Robert Nemiroff   (Michigan Technological University)
The CONtinuous CAMera (CONCAM) project, which ran from 2000 to (about) 2008, consisted of real-time, Internet-connected, fisheye cameras located at major astronomical observatories. At its peak, eleven CONCAMs around the globe monitored most of the night sky, most of the time. Initially designed to search for transients and stellar variability, CONCAMs gained initial notoriety as cloud monitors. As such, CONCAMs made -- and its successors continue to make -- ground-based astronomy more efficient. The original, compact, fisheye-observatory-in-a-suitcase design underwent several iterations, starting with CONCAM0 and with the last version dubbed CONCAM3. Although the CONCAM project itself concluded after centralized funding diminished, today more locally-operated, commercially-designed, CONCAM-like devices operate than ever before. It has even been shown that modern smartphones can operate in a CONCAM-like mode. It is speculated that the re-instatement of better global coordination of current wide-angle sky monitors could lead to better variability monitoring of the brightest stars and transients.
143.06      Urania in the Marketplace: Using Telescopes to Sell Consumer Goods
Kenneth Rumstay (Valdosta State University)
For well over a century the iconic image of the astronomical telescope has been widely used to promote distinctly non-astronomical consumer goods. One of the most famous of early examples is the 1893 Chicago newspaper advertisement for Kirk’s Soap, which was inspired by the opening of the Yerkes Observatory. But such usage was not limited to periodicals. Advertising trade cards had become popular at the end of the 17th century in Europe, notably in Paris and London. In a time prior to the introduction of formal systems of street address numbering, they served as both advertisement and map, directing consumers to the merchants' stores. In many cases, attention was drawn to the product by picturing it as a heavenly body to be observed telescopically!
In the 20th century trade cards gave way to the modern business card, and manufacturers began to increasingly rely on magazine and newspaper (and radio and television) advertising. But the telescope remains an evocative image! In modern advertising we see it used to sell an incredible variety of consumer goods: candy, coffee, cigarettes, whiskey, foodstuffs, clothing; the list is endless! Examples of these, along with earlier Victorian-era usages, are presented.
This work was supported by a faculty development grant from Valdosta State University.
The Leroy E. Doggett Prize Lecture
Session #134: Tuesday, January 9, 3:40 - 4:30 pm  (Potomac AB)
"Tangible Things of American Astronomy", by Sara Schechner (Harvard University)

As a science that studies celestial objects situated at vast distances from us, astronomy deals with few things that can be touched directly .And yet, astronomy has many tangible things—scientific instruments, observatories, and log books, for example—which link the past to the present. There is little question about maintaining things still valuable for scientific research purposes, but why should we care about documenting and preserving the old and obsolete? One answer is that material things, when closely examined, enhance our knowledge of astronomy’s history in ways that written texts alone cannot do. A second answer is that learning about the past helps us live critically in the present. In brief case studies, this talk will find meaning in objects that are extraordinary or commonplace. These will include a sundial, an almanac, telescopes, clocks, a rotating desk, photographic plates, and fly spankers.


The HAD Mini-banquet

Tuesday, January 9, 7:00 - 9:00 pm? (The Public House,)


HAD V:  Genealogy, History, and Technology

Session #208: Wednesday, January 10, 10:00–11:30 am (National Harbor 2 meeting room)
Session Chair: Pat Seitzer (University of Michigan)

208.01   AstroGen: A Progress Report
10:00    Joseph Tenn   (Sonoma State University)
Since early 2014 a small group of volunteers has been compiling the world's astronomy-related doctoral dissertations. Working almost entirely with data available online, we have now listed more than 24,000 such theses, including nearly complete coverage of 21 countries: the United States (14,183), United Kingdom (3699), Spain (1091), Netherlands (982), Canada (872), Australia (738), Sweden (375), Greece (239), Argentina (182), Finland (165), Denmark (110), Ireland (103), South Africa (97), New Zealand (87), Norway (79), Chile (42), Iran (25), Mauritius (5), Iceland (3), Pakistan (2), and Ethiopia (1). These numbers are as of mid-September 2017 and subject to revision. For each country we go back to the beginning of the modern Ph.D. or equivalent. Fully half of the doctorates have been earned since 1999. For each thesis we try to include the author (with links to a website or obituary), awarding institution, year of degree, thesis title, link to the thesis if online (about 64% are), translation of title if necessary, advisor(s), and other mentors. Our goal is to emulate the Mathematics Genealogy Project (MGP: with a website having a page for each person with links to that person's advisor(s) and students, if any. We will also have a page for each university. We have posted some introductory material on the website (, and are waiting for help from the AAS IT department to convert our data, currently in spreadsheets, to a database and then a website. We expect this to occur in early 2018. I will present some summaries of our results to date and conduct a discussion of how we can expand our database. We have people currently working on France, Russia, and India, but we need volunteers with linguistic ability and, preferably, familiarity with the academic cultures, to take on Germany, Italy, and nearly all the countries of Asia.
208.02   Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow
10:10    Peter Broughton
In 1935 John Stanley Plaskett (and his colleague Joseph Pearce) established that the Milky Way is a mass of 165 billion stars and interstellar material rotating about a centre 10 000 parsecs away in Sagittarius—a model that held in its broad details for the rest of the twentieth century. This brief presentation will explore the great uncertainties in the mass and size of the Galaxy in the prior decade and how small but timely suggestions from Kapteyn and Schlesinger as well as contact with Öort proved to be fruitful in producing Plaskett’s robust results.
208.03   The Observatory as Laboratory: Spectral Analysis at Mount Wilson Observatory
10:20    Ronald Brashear   (Chemical Heritage Foundation)
This paper will discuss the seminal changes in astronomical research practices made at the Mount Wilson Observatory in the early twentieth century by George Ellery Hale and his staff. Hale’s desire to set the agenda for solar and stellar astronomical research is often described in terms of his new telescopes, primarily the solar tower observatories and the 60- and 100-inch telescopes on Mount Wilson. This paper will focus more on the ancillary but no less critical parts of Hale’s research mission: the establishment of associated “physical” laboratories as part of the observatory complex where observational spectral data could be quickly compared with spectra obtained using specialized laboratory equipment. Hale built a spectroscopic laboratory on the mountain and a more elaborate physical laboratory in Pasadena and staffed it with highly trained physicists, not classically trained astronomers. The success of Hale’s vision for an astronomical observatory quickly made the Carnegie Institution’s Mount Wilson Observatory one of the most important astrophysical research centers in the world.
208.04   All Over the World: Mid-Twentieth Century Radio Astronomy and the Origin of the International SETI Network
10:30    Rebecca Charbonneau   (Oxford University)
Cold War mythology is rife with stories about secrecy, competition, espionage, and animosity. Yet the history behind the myth-- the overlooked scientists collaborating outside of the aims of the state-- also tells an interesting story. This paper examines the challenges of international scientific collaboration during the Cold War, focusing especially on a case study concerning Soviet radio astronomer Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskii and U.S. astrophysicist Carl Sagan, and their collaborative work on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Despite the hyper-politics that instigated and fueled the Space Race, SETI was held up as an ideal internationalist science, with the lofty goal of uniting all of humanity by situating it within a cosmic community. Although the internationalism of SETI discourse is not entirely unfounded due to its roots in international collaboration, further research indicates that such internationalism was in reality instilled with geopolitics, international conflict, and even espionage. That said, however, the cultural and philosophical perspectives of individual SETI scientists led them to operate within the tensions between national and ideological restraints and their own personal philosophical perspectives. In reviewing the letters of correspondence, conference proceedings, interviews, transcripts of lectures, and autobiographical writings of early-SETI radio astronomers, this paper ultimately argues that, although SETI was not the ideal internationalist science it was portrayed as, SETI pioneers were able to connect and form international networks within a contentious system which often centered on the restriction of free information and international collaboration through their mutual unconventional scientific interests, and facilitated by their personal utopian futurist philosophies.
208.05   Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation at the National Science Foundation
10:40    Peter Kurczynski   (National Science Foundation)
Over its more than thirty-year history, the Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation (ATI) program within the Division of Astronomical Sciences has provided grants to support the development and deployment of detectors and instrumentation for ground-based astronomy. This program has enabled scientific advances in diverse fields from solar physics to exoplanets to cosmology. ATI has provided instrumentation for both small and large observatories from radio through visible wavebands. It has played a role in the early development of major initiatives such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Technology development for astronomy unfolds over a longer period than the lifetime of a single grant. This review will consider ATI from an historical perspective to assess its impact on astronomy.