I'm one of these people who can recall wanting
to be an astronomer nearly continuously since my
father read me an astronomy book when I was five.
From there it was a straight slog uphill with no
major deviations or doubts. I took two years of
physics and calculus in high school, majored in
physics and math in college, and went straight to
grad school. I graduated from Cornell
in 1971 with my Ph.D. (radio studies of star-forming
regions) and then went on to successive postdocs
at the National
Radio Astronomy Observatory and Lick
Observatory. I've worked on star formation,
active galactic nuclei, neutral hydrogen in early-type
galaxies, and, for the past 15 years, studies of
nebular hydrodynamics with application to planetary
nebulae. See my home
page for more details.
My present faculty position at the University
of Washington started in 1975. Since then I've
taken professional leaves at NRAO (to work on the
VLA, then under construction), Berkeley,
Leiden (Netherlands), and Osservatorio
Arcetri above Florence (Italy). Presently I
serve on the Hubble Space Telescope User's Committee
and the Scientific Overview Committee for the Hubble
Space Telescope's last imaging camera, WFC3, to
be installed in Hubble in 2003.
I am extremely fortunate to have enjoyed wonderful
long-term collaborations with Yervant
Terzian, Vincent Icke, Adam Frank, Garrelt Mellema,
Mario Perinotto, Arsen Hajian, and many other wonderful
people who all contribute to making my professional
career such an exciting, satisfying experience.
I thank them all. My devotion to a professional
career is possible only because of the perseverance
and understanding of my wife, Della; children, Charlene
and Marshall; various pets, our many wonderful neighbors,
and the flowers and fauna of the Pacific Northwest.
Doing astronomy is amazing and almost always fun.
Elements of both art and science are essential.
The art is the creative process of developing hunches
from subtle patterns that emerge in data. The science
is developing these hunches into physically realistic
models, and then evaluating the models against new
observations. Yet, whenever I have trouble reaching
from the art to the science (which is often), Mark
Twain's quip of a century ago comes to mind:
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years
the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two
hundred and forty-two miles. This is an average
of a trifle over one mile and a third per year.
Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or
idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolithic Silurian
Period, just a million years ago next November,
the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one
million three hundred thousand miles long, and
stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing
rod. And by the same token any person can see
that seven hundred and forty-two years from now
the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and
three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans
will have joined their streets together, and be
plodding comfortably along under a single mayor
and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something
fascinating about science: one gets such wholesale
returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment
-- from Life on the Mississippi,
Now that the kids are grown Della and I travel
much more. We've found a chance to explore heaven
together in Tuscany,
to find grace and harmony in Andalucia,
and to sample some sinless pleasure in Provence.
Leiden is our home away from home, and we return
there whenever possible to see our many friends.