Saturday, October 15, 2011


It comes sadly just a few days too late for Dr. Kameny to hear the news, but the AAS Executive Council has just unanimously decided to recognize Dr. Kameny at the AAS Austin meting. 

Thank you to everyone who wrote in letters of nomination.  They certainly helped convince the Council that this action had broad support across the AAS membership.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Articles about Dr. Kameny

At the conclusion of the war, Kameny returned to Queens College after being discharged from the Army in 1946. He completed his undergraduate work less than two years later and began his studies at Harvard. While there, he taught astronomy at Yale University and later traveled to Arizona and Northern Island, where he conducted research in astronomy at internationally acclaimed observatories. After receiving his PhD. at Harvard in 1956, he began teaching astronomy at Georgetown University.

In 1957, he left Georgetown after being recruited by the government to take a job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in Washington. The nation’s race against the Russians for superiority in space had just begun in full force. Kameny had set his sights, among other things, on a possible role in the U.S. space program. A short time later, Congress created the National Aeronautics & Space Administration. Kameny has said he would have seriously considered applying to become an astronaut. But that was not to come about.

...His longtime friend and fellow activist, Craig Howell, has said that had it not been for the government’s discovery of his sexual orientation, Kameny would likely have become one of the world’s eminent astronomers.

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.