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Owen Gingerich

Owen GingerichOwen Gingerich is a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University. In 1992-93 he chaired Harvard's History of Science Department.

Professor Gingerich's research interests have ranged from the recomputation of an ancient Babylonian mathematical table to the interpretation of stellar spectra. He is co-author of two successive standard models for the solar atmosphere, the first to take into account rocket and satellite observations of the sun; the second of these papers has received over 500 literature citations.

In the past three decades Professor Gingerich has become a leading authority on the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler and on Nicholas Copernicus, the 16th-century cosmologist who proposed the heliocentric system. The Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer has undertaken a personal survey of Copernicus' great book De revolutionibus, and he has now seen 580 sixteenth-century copies in libraries scattered throughout Europe and North America, as well as those in China and Japan. His annotated census of these books has been published as a 434-page monograph. In recognition of these studies he was awarded the Polish government's Order of Merit in 1981, and more recently an asteroid has been named in his honor.

Professor Gingerich has been vice president of the American Philosophical Society (America's oldest scientific academy) and he has served as chairman of the US National Committee of the International Astronomical Union. He has been a councilor of the American Astronomical Society, and helped organize its Historical Astronomy Division. In 2000 he won their Doggett Prize for his contributions to the history of astronomy.

For some years he served as consultant to the eminent designer Charles Eames, and he was an advisor for "Cosmic Voyage," an Imax film at the National Air and Space Museum. He has given the George Darwin lecture (the most prestigious lecture of the Royal Astronomical Society), and in 1999 an Advent sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington. A world traveler, he has successfully observed eleven total solar eclipses.

Besides over 500 technical or educational articles and reviews, Professor Gingerich has written more popularly on astronomy in several encyclopedias and journals. Two anthologies of his essarys have appeared, The Great Copernicus Chase and Other Adventures in Astronomical History from Cambridge University Press, and The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler in the American Institute of Physics' "Masters of Modern Physics" series. At Harvard he taught "The Astronomical Perspective," a core science course for non-scientists, which was "the longest-running course under the same management" at Harvard. In 1984 he won the Harvard-Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa prize for excellence in teaching.

Professor Gingerich and his wife Miriam are enthusiastic travelers, photographers, and rare book and shell collectors.

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