Owen Gingerich

Owen Gingerich is a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and 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 has undertaken a personal survey of Copernicus’ great book De revolutionibus, and he has now seen 560 16th-century copies in libraries scattered throughout Europe and North America, as well as those in China and Japan. His annotated census of these books should soon be published as a 600-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.

Besides over 400 technical or educational articles and reviews, Professor Gingerich has written more popularly on astronomy in several encyclopedias and journals. In 1989 he published Album of Science: The Physical Sciences in the Twentieth-Century with Macmillan. Two anthologies of his essays 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 teaches “The Astronomical Perspective,” a core science course for non-scientists and “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.