It is my genuine
pleasure to welcome you to this celebration of the
60th anniversary of the founding of Amateur
Astronomers Incorporated. I would like to commend the
anniversary committee for putting together this
wonderful event, and extend our thanks to the staff
of The Westwood.
I consider myself to be
something of a student of history, so I appreciate
how such milestones offer us a chance to look back at
where we've been and invite us to envision where we
I thought it would be
fun to take a brief look at what the world was like
back in 1949.
The Second World War
had been over for only four years.
Clyde Tombough had
discovered Pluto just 19 years before.
Harry S. Truman was
in the White House.
Karl Jansky had
ushered in practical radio astronomy only 16 years
The Soviet Union
exploded their first atomic bomb, and communist
forces invaded Beijing.
That May, Gerard
Kuiper discovered Neptune's moon, Nereid.
The Federal Republic
of Germany was formed, splitting that country for
the next forty years.
The first scientific
experiments in space were conducted three years
earlier by the US using captured Nazi V2 rockets in
The first Emmy Awards
were broadcast on television, RCA announced the
development of a color TV system, and Americans
witnessed the debut of such shows as The Lone
Ranger, Bozo the Clown, and Captain Video and His
The phrase "Big Bang"
wouldn't be coined for another year, applied
derisively to the idea by Fred Hoyle.
Among the movies
released that year, was "Abbott and Costello Meet
the Killer" featuring Boris Karloff.
That January, the
200-inch Hale Telescope atop Mount Palomar saw
first light as the largest such instrument in the
It's amazing to think
how our world, our science, and our hobby have
changed since then!
The Cold War is over,
and the Soviet Union is defunct.
We've walked on the
Moon, and we explore the planets.
The fall of the
Berlin Wall and the reuniting of Germany is now a
20-year old memory.
The Hale is no longer
the largest telescope, and we routinely explore the
universe in a variety of wavelengths.
1949 was the first
year no black person was lynched in the United
States, and, now we have the first African-American
And, according to
some, Pluto is no longer a planet.
It's amazing too to
think about how AAI has changed and grown and we will
be hearing some of that history later this afternoon.
But one thing above all has remained constant. AAI
has always provided a place for those curious about
their universe to gather and bear witness to its
Personally, I've formed
friendships here that extend beyond Friday nights at
Sperry. And even where I have found cause for
disagreement, I still found cause for respect. At the
end of the day, we are all volunteers, driven by
shared passions and a spirit of service and
fellowship. In a very real sense, we have each been
one another's teachers and students.
Next February, I will
have been an active member of AAI for a dozen years.
And in that time I have learned a simple but powerful
AAI is not stones and
mortar. It is the volunteers who freeze and sweat in
the domes to give the public a glimpse of their
universe. AAI is not a respectable library or machine
shop. It is the people who stand before the
interested and the indifferent alike, and give talks
in the hopes of inspiring even just a single mind.
AAI isn't even two magnificent telescopes.
AAI is you and me. It
is all who have come before and all who will
We have much to be
proud of and much to celebrate.