This weekend astronomers from all over the world have been gathering in Washington, DC, for the 215th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which runs January 3-7.
Billed as "the largest astronomy meeting in the history of the universe" (my question: How would they know?), this year's event includes 87 sessions on a galaxy-wide range of topics from molecular clouds to public outreach.
If I was able to attend, I'd gravitate to the sessions on the history of astronomy, and in particular, I'd be among the first to arrive tomorrow afternoon for Invited Session 104, which will be held 4:30 to 5:20 pm in the Marriott Ballroom of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
In that ballroom, Dr. Michael J. Crowe will be acknowledged as the recipient of the 2010 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy, after which he'll present a paper titled "Seventeen Key Developments in the History of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate." His will be the only presentation.
As it should be.
The Doggett Prize is awarded by the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society to individuals who have had significant impact on the field of the history of astronomy. Dr. Crowe has certainly done that over a lifetime of scholarship and teaching, nearly all of it at the University of Notre Dame where he is the Reverend John J. Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus in the Humanities in the Program of Liberal Studies and Graduate Program in the History and Philosophy of Science.
Crowe's monumental The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell (originally published by Cambridge University Press in 1986, with revised editions in 1988 and 1999) established the topic as a legitimate focus of study. And his Biennial History of Astronomy Workshops at the University of Notre Dame, founded in 1993, are widely viewed as the most enjoyable meetings in the field.
Congratulations, and well-deserved, Dr. Michael J. Crowe.