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Honorary Members

The following list describes the achievements and contributions of the Society's current Honorary Members.

Dr. Oscar Álvarez-Pomares (Cuba)

Dr Oscar A. Álvarez-Pomares, now with the Cuban National Academy of Sciences, a respected radio astronomer and the Cuban National Node for IYA2009, during which he lead the project to create the new Havana Planetarium, which opened in January 2010. http://www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/nodes/national/view/CU/

Dr. Oscar Álvarez has been a constant supporter of amateur astronomy in Cuba. Under his leadership as Director of Astronomy at IGA, he organized the IAU’s XVI International School of Young Astronomers in 1989, recognized as one of the most important milestones related to astronomy outreach in the country. Oscar is a natural communicator, with the rare ability to explain difficult concepts in simple words. So, in the media, his person is recognized as the visible face of Astronomy in Cuba. In that discipline, he is regarded as an effective science communicator and his participation is requested in almost every science/pseudoscience debate, which explains his extraordinary popularity beyond scientific environments to become one of the most acknowledged scientists in the country.

Dr. Álvarez was nominated by Dave Chapman.


Dr. William Bottke (USA)

Dr. William Bottke is the Director of the Department for Space Studies at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. Bottke is also the Director of the Center for Lunar Origin and Evolution (CLOE) of NASA’s Lunar Science Institute. His research interests include the collisional and dynamical evolution of small body populations throughout the solar system (e.g., asteroids, comets, irregular satellites, Kuiper belt objects, meteoroids, dust) and the formation and bombardment history of planetesimals, planets and satellites. He is also interested in how near-Earth objects (NEOs) are delivered from their source regions in various asteroid and cometary populations to their observed orbits. He received a B.S. with High Distinction in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 1988, and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1995. The University of Arizona also awarded him the Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award in 1995. Bottke was a Texaco Prize Fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 1996-1997, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University from 1997-2000. Asteroid 1995 HN2 was named (7355) Bottke in 1999. In 2011, he was awarded the first Paolo Farinella Prize at the joint EPSC-DPS 2011 meeting in Nantes, France by the University of Pisa, the Space Academy Foundation, IASF-INAF and IFSI-INAF (Rome).


Dr. David L. Crawford (USA)

Dr. Crawford, a native of Pennsylvania, is Emeritus Astronomer at Kitt Peak National Observatory and National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona. From 1963 to 1973, he was Project Manager of the 4-metre Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak, and of its twin, the Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. His research involves galactic structure, stellar photometry, observational instruments and techniques, and light-pollution abatement. Dr. Crawford is widely-known as the co-founder and Executive-Director of the International Dark-Sky Association. He has worked tirelessly to promote energy-efficient, glare-free lighting, to the benefit of the public, the environment, and astronomy. Dr. Crawford has presented the IDA's message of responsible lighting to meetings of the RASC.


Rev. Robert O. Evans (Australia)

Reverend Robert Evans, an Australian amateur astronomer, holds the world record for visual discoveries of supernovae: 40 as of 2006, more than the combined total of all other visual observers combined! Most of these were found using Newtonian telescopes of 10-, 12-, and 16-inch aperture from his backyard. His discoveries include several supernovae that, during the past quarter century, helped to establish the classification scheme for these colossal explosions, information that was needed for studying supernovae at remote distances, which led to independent estimates for the expansion, age, and fate of the Universe. Evans' success is a consequence of his life-long fascination with supernovae, and that he has memorized the appearance of more than 1000 galaxies and adjacent star fields down to 15th magnitude. Without star atlas or electronic aid, he can locate and examine galaxy after galaxy at a rate of about one a minute. As Chairman of the Supernova Search Committee of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) and as author of "Amateur Supernova Hunting" in the RASC Observer's Handbook, Rev. Evans is assisting observers world-wide in this endeavour.


Dra. Julieta Fierro (Mexico)

Dra. Julieta Fierro, "the Carl Sagan of Mexico", is a professor, Institute of Astronomy, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), and one of the world's foremost communicators of astronomy. Her graduate degree was in astronomy, and she teaches regularly at UNAM, and has carried out research on interstellar matter. Her contributions to Spanish-language science education and outreach are prodigious – over 40 books, directorship of a major science centre Universum in Mexico City (and consultant to other science centres), numerous radio and TV series, programs and appearances, and countless public lectures, including one to 100,000 schoolchildren in a stadium! She works extensively with schoolteachers and students, giving workshops, developing resources, and writing books and articles for young people. She is constantly innovating; most recently, she has collaborated with a dance company to present astronomy through that medium. Her public presentations are legendary – highly kinetic and engaging. But unlike some public figures, she radiates a warm and generous personality. She has served nationally as President of the Mexican Academy of Professors of Natural Science, and the Mexican Society of Science Museums, and internationally as President of the International Astronomical Union's Commission on Astronomy Education and Development. Her many national and international awards include honorary doctorates, the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the prestigious UNESCO Kalinga Prize for promoting public understanding of science, and membership in Mexico's Academia de la Lengua -- an honour usually reserved for scholars in the humanities.

Citation prepared by Dr. Percy from information adapted from Dr. Fierro's UNAM Web site.


Professor Andrew Fraknoi (USA)

Dr. Fraknoi was nominated by Mary Lou Whitehorne, who has had occasion to meet Dr. Fraknoi and recommends him on the basis of his work in Education and Public Outreach.

“His work represents the global gold standard in astronomy education and outreach. He has inspired many to follow in his footsteps. I have had the pleasure of meeting him a few times, and of hearing him speak. He is nothing short of phenomenal - passionate, inspiring, dedicated and caring. I have used, and marvelled at, his work for over two decades. He has been my personal role model for over 20 years and is unquestionably deserving of honorary membership status. A not insignificant added benefit is a further strengthening of ties between the RASC and the ASP.” - MLW

Andrew Fraknoi is a science educator who is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. His accomplishments include:

  • Chair of the Astronomy Program at Foothill College near San Francisco
  • Professor of the Year in 2007 for the state of California
  • Over 400 public lectures
  • Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for 14 years.
  • Founded and directed Project ASTRO, brings astronomers into 4th - 9th grade classrooms.
  • He is a prolific author, speaker on news and talk programs.
  • Board member of the SETI institute.
  • Fellow of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry, specializing in debunking astrology.
  • Fellow of the California Academy of Science. In 2009, he served as national secretary for the program committee for the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s turning the telescope to the heavens.

Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi has taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco, Canada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Division.


Dr. Owen J. Gingerich (USA)

Born in Iowa and trained as an astrophysicist, Owen Gingerich's research has ranged from the theoretical computation of stellar spectra to an annotated census of the first two printed editions of Copernicus's "De Revolutionibus." Currently, he is a Senior Astronomer Emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard University. Dr. Gingerich is a leading authority on both Johannes Kepler and Nicholas Copernicus. His books include "The Great Copernicus Chase and Other Adventures in Astronomical History" (1992). "The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler" (1993), "The Book Nobody Read" (2004), and "God's Universe" (2006). No fan of the Intelligent Design movement, in "God's Universe" Gingerich argues that an individual can be both a creative scientist and a believer in divine design, and that the very motivation for scientific research can derive from a desire to trace God's handiwork. In 1985, in Toronto, Dr. Gingerich gave the first annual Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture.


Dr. Stephen W. Hawking (England)

Dr. Hawking is a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist, and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. He is a leader in the study of some of the most fundamental problems in physics and astronomy, notably the nature of gravity, its relation to the other forces and to quantum and particle physics, and its application to cosmology. One of his discoveries is that black holes should radiate as if they were hot bodies. Among Dr. Hawking's many honours was his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. Two of his books are "The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime" with George Ellis (1973) and "A Brief History of Time" (1988), the latter being one of the most popular science books of all time. His accomplishments are even more remarkable because they have been made despite the fact that he is seriously afflicted by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His genius, in the face of adversity, is an inspiration to scientist and layman alike.


Jean Meeus (Belgium)

Jean Meeus is a Belgian meteorologist and astronomer. Born in 1928, Jean Meeus studied mathematics at the University of Louvain (Leuven) in Belgium, receiving the Degree of Licentiate in 1953. From then until his retirement in 1993, he was a meteorologist at Brussels Airport. His special interest is in spherical and mathematical astronomy. He is the co-author of "Canon of Solar Eclipses" (1966 and 1983), and "Canon of Lunar Eclipses" (1979). His "Astronomical Formulae for Calculators" (1979, 1982, 1985, and 1988) has been widely acclaimed by both amateur and professional astronomers. Further works include "Elements of Solar Eclipses 1951-2200" (1989), "Transits" (1989), "Astronomical Algorithms" (1991 and 1999), "Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon and Planets" (1983 and 1995), "Mathematical Astronomy Morsels" (1997), "More Mathematical Astronomy Morsels" (2002), and "Mathematical Astronomy Morsels III" (2004).


Dr. Jay M. Pasachoff (USA)

Dr. Pasachoff is the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy and Director of Hopkins Observatory at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, U.S.A. His research involves planetary atmospheres, the interstellar medium, and solar physics. He has observed many total solar eclipses while pursuing studies of the solar chromosphere and corona. Dr. Pasachoff has an international reputation for his contributions to education in astronomy. He is the author of many school- and university-level textbooks on science and introductory astronomy, plus astronomical field guides for the general public.


Dr. P.J.E. Peebles (USA)

Dr. Phillip James Edwin Peebles is a native of Winnipeg and a graduate of the University of Manitoba (B.Sc. in physics, 1958). He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1962, and currently is a professor of physics at Princeton. In the mid-1960s, he and his colleagues predicted that thermal electromagnetic radiation from the very early Universe should be detectable by radio telescopes, that this radiation should be isotropic, and that it should have the spectrum of a black body only a few degrees above absolute zero. Coincidentally, about the same time (in 1965), Penzias and Wilson of the Bell Telephone Laboratories accidentally discovered this radiation. Dr. Peebles has investigated characteristics of the radiation and the clustering of galaxies. He has calculated the universal abundances of helium and other light elements, demonstrating agreement between Big Bang theory and observation. His two books on physical cosmology had a significant impact in convincing physicists that the time had come to study cosmology as a respectable branch of physics. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1982.


Dr. Sara Seager (Canada)

Professor Sara Seager was born and grew up in Toronto, Canada. Among her first memories is a trip to a “star party” with her father, to see the moon through a telescope—spectacular! Professor Seager graduated from Jarvis Collegiate Institute, and studied at the University of Toronto. After graduating with a B.Sc. in the Math and Physics Specialist Program at the U of T, Seager attended the Ph.D. program in Astronomy at Harvard.

Dr. Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT. Her science research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets. Her research has introduced many new ideas to the field of exoplanet characterization, including work that led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere. Professor Seager's space instrumentation group is focusing on "ExoplanetSat," a 3U CubeSat capable of high-precision pointing, with the science goal of detecting small transiting exoplanets orbiting bright, sun-like stars. The prototype is intended to be the first of a planned fleet of nanosatellites, aimed to demonstrate the graduated growth of a constellation as a new paradigm for space science missions. In addition to being the PI of ExoplanetSat, Professor Seager is co-leading CommCube, a platform to demonstrate novel small satellite space communication technology, and is involved in the MIT-Harvard REXIS instrument on NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission.
Before joining MIT in 2007, Professor Seager spent four years on the senior research staff at the Carnegie Institution of Washington preceded by three years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Her Ph.D. is from Harvard University. Professor Seager is on the advisory board for Planetary Resources and the Rosalind Franklin Society. Professor Seager is the 2012 recipient of the the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences, the 2007 recipient of the American Astronomical s Helen B. Warner Prize, and is an AAAS Fellow. She has been recognized in the media by Popular Science Magazine's Fifth Annual Brilliant Ten in 2006, Discover Magazine's "Best 20 under 40" in 2008, Nature's Top Ten in 2011, and Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential in Space in 2012.


Dr. William P. Sheehan (USA)

Dr. Sheehan is a practicing psychiatrist, amateur astronomer, experienced Mars observer, a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope, historian of astronomy, and first-rate author. His books include, "Planets & Perception" (1988), "Worlds in the Sky" (1992), the first biography of one of the greatest observers of all time, "The Immortal Fire Within: The Life and Work of Edward Emerson Barnard" (1995), "The Planet Mars" (1996), "In Search of Planet Vulcan" (with Richard Baum, 1997), "Epic Moon" (with T.A. Dobbins, 2001), "Mars" (with S.J. O'Meara, 2001), and "Transits of Venus" (with J. Westfall, 2004). He is currently working on a biography of W.W. Morgan. Sheehan is noted for his meticulous research and eloquent prose. His biography of Barnard is a classic.


Carolyn Shoemaker (USA)

Born in New Mexico, Carolyn Shoemaker is one of the world's foremost Solar System astronomers. She was a Guest Observer at Palomar Observatory for 12 years, and currently is Research Professor of Astronomy at Northern Arizona University and a staff member at Lowell Observatory. For 14 years, Carolyn worked with her late husband, Eugene, on the Palomar Asteroid and Comet Survey, a project of rare vision, of uncommon dedication, and of profound significance regarding the long-term future of life on this planet. Carolyn Shoemaker has discovered more than 800 asteroids, including 44 near-Earth asteroids. Also, she has found 32 comets, more than anyone else in history. One of her discoveries was Shoemaker-Levy 9, the first comet observed to collide with a planet. The spectacular impact of SL9 with Jupiter in 1994 was one of the defining moments in the history of astronomy. For 17 years, Carolyn spent several months each year with Eugene in the Australian Outback searching for and studying craters from earlier impacts. They carried out one of the most scientifically fruitful pioneering efforts of our time, amassing data relevant to estimating the rate of large impacts on Earth. Carolyn and Eugene participated in two RASC General Assemblies: Windsor in 1995, and Kingston in 1997. Carolyn gave the Ruth Northcott Lecture at the Windsor GA.


Dr. R. Brent Tully (USA)

R. Brent Tully is an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii. His specialty is the astrophysics of galaxies. He, along with J. Richard Fisher, proposed the now-famous Tully-Fisher relation in a paper, A New Method of Determining Distances to Galaxies, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 54, No. 3, in February, 1977. He also published the book The Nearby Galaxies Catalog in 1988, with 3-D locations for the closest 68,000 galaxies to Earth (this information taken from Wikipedia.