Although he was born just 200 km north of Baltimore,
astronomer Nolan Walborn traveled widely before
returning to this area of the world. When he was
8 years old his family moved to Argentina, where
he attended local schools and became fluent in Spanish.
Returning to the U.S., he did undergraduate studies
at Gettysburg College, back home in Pennsylvania,
and then moved on to the University of Chicago and
Yerkes Observatory to obtain his PhD in astronomy
in 1970. His thesis advisor was one of the giants
of 20th-century astronomy, W. W. Morgan.
After a postdoctoral fellowship in Toronto, Nolan
returned to Latin America for an 8-year staff appointment
at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
He has been on the staff of the Space
Telescope Science Institute since 1984, and
he is a well-known stellar spectroscopist specializing
in the optical and ultraviolet spectra of hot, massive
(O- and B-type) stars and the regions of the Galaxy
and the Magellanic Clouds in which they are formed.
Nolan recalls that his fascination with science
in general and astronomy in particular arose because
of outstanding teachers in high school (Dr. N. Mittelman)
and college (Dr. R. Mara and staff). This fascination
was actually enough for him to abandon his original
ambition to become a jet fighter pilot!
He writes that his astronomical career has allowed
him the great satisfaction "provided by the discovery
of new phenomena, which one has the privilege of
recognizing for the first time." He has been struck
by the "awesome direct views of the Galaxy during
perfect, moonless nights on Cerro Tololo," especially
when "the Galactic Center is directly overhead,
and the brilliant plane of the Milky Way, broken
by dark dust lanes and clouds, stretches from Cygnus
at the northeastern horizon to Carina at the southwestern."
Waxing lyrical, he continues "When beholding such
sights I am impressed by their beauty, but equally
by the satisfaction of understanding them at some
level, which previous generations were unable to
do lacking the benefit of our modern sciences. I'll
never forget the images of 30 Doradus and the globular
clusters Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae through an
eyepiece at the prime focus of the CTIO 4-meter
reflector. Unfortunately, most modern astronomers
no longer have such opportunities, seeing their
targets only on colorless, fuzzy TV monitors--or
not at all with HST!"
When away from STScI, Nolan spends time with his
wife, Laura, from Argentina, who also has an astronomy
degree, and their toddler son Andrew. He enjoys
listening to baroque and symphonic music (Bach and
Vaughan Williams being his respective favorites),
and he wishes he had more opportunities to snorkel
in tropical waters.