Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prize Update

Sadly Frank Kameny died on Tuesday night (National Coming Out Day,
ironically enough). The Wall Street Journal has a particularly good
article on him

Tomorrow (Friday) the AAS Executive Committee is considering language
for a formal recognition at Austin. The language proposed by the LGBT
subcommittee has been altered slightly by the LGBT working group to
change the language to the past tense.

Our plan is to continue to push for recognition in Austin, and simply make the
recognition posthumous. It is possible that we could ask his sister
(apparently his only survivor) to accept the award, if she would be
willing, but this is just an idea.

There is still an active push for a "Contributions to Society" type
award, but it will take a while to get established. Once established,
Dr. Kameny probably will not be able to win it posthumously, but given
the impetus I think we have a strong argument to name it after him.
Strategically, I think having a formal recognition in Austin will add
to the existing precedent of the AAS acknowledging non-astronomy contributions,
which will help overcome some philosophical objections to the award.

The minor downside to this approach is that the motivation for an
Austin award was to get recognition in quickly due to Dr. Kameny's
advanced age, with the understanding that the recognition would not be
seen as a substitute for a future award. That motivation now has been
mitigated somewhat, but since he is now presumably ineligible for a
later award anyway we are proceeding with the recognition.

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