Saturday, January 7, 2012

Astronomers to recognize Frank Kameny's contribution

This week is the superbowl of astronomy:  American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting.  Several thousand astronomers will be networking, sharing new results, and awarding prizes for standout contributions to our science.

At the meeting, the AAS will honor LGBTQ civil rights leader and former astronomer Dr. Frank Kameny with a certificate recognizing his contributions to society.  While the grass-roots effort to honor Dr. Kameny got started while he was alive, sadly he passed away before the award could be given.   Several queer astronomers will accept the certificate in memory of Dr. Kameny.

I wish Frank had lived to see the ceremony, or that astronomers had gotten their acts together to honor him earlier.  After Frank was fired in 1957 from US government astronomy job for being gay, he walked away from astronomy.  After all, he had no recourse -- homosexuality was considered a psychosis. Frank played a key role in changing all that, and those of us who live openly and honestly owe him big time.   But I wonder if he missed his former profession --  taking data on the mountaintop, analyzing it late at night in the lab, going to lectures, trying to figure out how the Universe works.  Anyone know if Frank talked about this?  Would he be satisfied to be be recognized by his former profession?

The kind folks at AAVSO will be bringing their signed copy of Frank's astronomy PhD thesis, as a sort of physical memory of Frank, to be there when his citation is read.  Not sure if that's cheesy or profound, but I like it.

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