In response to several discussions among astronomers and historians of astronomy, I started out to prepare a paper on long-publishing astronomers-those who published for 70, 75, or even 80 years. However, I soon ran into a number of questions of classification, and that turned out to be at least as interesting. How do we decide on classifications? Every time we choose classes, such as asteroids, planets and stars, we run into objects that seem to be in between. In the present case a number of questions arise: Who is an astronomer? Several of those with the longest publication runs started out as physicists, published for years in that subject only, and later took up astrophysics, eventually publishing a few papers in astronomy journals. What is a publication? Should we count publications in physics, chemistry, or mathematics? What about philosophy of science or history of science? What about the elderly retired astronomer presenting a memoir of his or her own work? Abstracts of oral presentations? Monographs? Textbooks? Book reviews? Obituaries? Then there is the problem of posthumous publications. Probably most would include papers in the pipeline when the astronomer dies, but what about the case where the coauthor finally publishes the paper as much as twenty-two years after the death of the person of interest? I eventually decided to make two lists, one which would include most of the above, and one restricted to papers that make contributions to physical science. Note that I do not say 'refereed', as that presents its own problems, especially when applied to periods before the twentieth century.I present a list of astronomers who have published for periods of 68 to 80 years and discuss the problems of defining such terms as astronomer and publication.
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
- Pub Date:
- March 2012