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Owen Gingerich is a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Research 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’s research interests have ranged from the recomputation of an ancient Babylonian mathematical table to the interpretation of stellar spectra. He is co-author of two successive standard models for the solar atmosphere, the first to take into account rocket and satellite observations of the sun; the second of these papers has received over 500 literature citations.
In the past three decades Professor Gingerich has become a leading authority on the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler and on Nicholas Copernicus, the 16th-century cosmologist who proposed the heliocentric system. The Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer has undertaken a personal survey of Copernicus’ great book De revolutionibus, and he has now seen 580 sixteenth-century copies in libraries scattered throughout Europe and North America, as well as those in China and Japan. His annotated census of these books has been published as a 434-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.