AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXI, No. 1, Spring 1999


American Astronomical Society Celebrates Centennial This Spring
by Don Osterbrock

The American Astronomical Society will celebrate its centennial at its summer meeting in Chicago, 30 May - 3 June, 1999. The AAS, named at first the Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America, came into existence atYerkes Observatory in 1899. There will be a number of special centennial events in addition to the regular scientific program. Everyone who registers for the meeting will receive, as part of the registration package, a copy of the centennial book, The American Astronomical Society s First Century, edited by David H. DeVorkin. It is over 320 pages long, with about 75 illustrations (photographs and tables) integrated into the text. It includes thirty articles, covering all phases of the history, current activities, policies, and projected future of the Society. AAS members who are not planning to attend the centennial meeting may order copies of the book in advance, at an attractive special price, and the AIP, which published it, will make it available to non-members.

Also, a new AAS centennial exhibit will first be displayed at the centennial meeting. Sara Schechner Genuth planned the exhibit with the help of Steve Dick and David DeVorkin, and is now supervising its completion. The exhibit includes documents, photographs, and other papers from the history of the Society and of American astronomy. After the Centennial meeting the exhibit wil be displayed at the AAS offices in Washington, at the AIP, and at universities, departments, observatories, research centers, museums and other institutions which want to show it and can safeguard it.

At the meeting itself there will be several special sessions devoted to the centennial. They will include an invited talk before the whole Society on the history of the AAS by David DeVorkin, editor of the centennial book; another session before the whole Society on the future of the AAS (and of astronomy) with three (or possibly four) invited speakers, all of them former presidents of the Society; and one half-day session, held concurrently with other (mainly scientific) sessions, on "My Most Memorable AAS Meeting," at which members of the AAS will describe past meetings which they attended. It will include both oral and poster sessions.

The Historical Astronomy Division and the Solar Physics Division will be meeting with the AAS in Chicago, and the HAD will have a very full program, starting with a field trip to Yerkes Observatory on May 29. Then there will be sessions for historical papers, invited and contributed, at the Adler Planetarium on May 30, and at the hotel where the AAS will be meeting on May 31. The SPD will have one historical session of invited papers on June 1, emphasizing the early solar astrophysical research of George Ellery Hale, and how the field has developed since his time.

After the centennial meeting, the Astrophysical Journal will devote a special issue, the last issue of 1999, to reprinting approximately forty especially significant papers published in it or in the Astronomical Journal during the century of the Society s existence. Each paper will be accompanied by a brief commentary written by a current research worker, which will discuss the significance of the paper and describe how its field has broadened and developed since the paper was published. For much more inormation on the AAS Centennial meeting and the invited lectures, popular lectures, sessions, etc. connected with it consult the web site,

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