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45 Years of Heck in Professional Astronomy

by Joe Hube

Table of contents * Foreword * Citations


This volume is devoted to the itinerary and professional activities of Astronomer André Heck whose international career spanned the period 1969-2014.

This is the story of a Belgian scientist of humble origins whose name was assigned to a comet he discovered at the age of 26 at Haute Provence Observatory, who was in charge at 31 of the science operations on the then most advanced astronomy satellite from a European Space Agency station in Spain, and who later ended up at the top level for astronomers in France after pushing forward new fields and acting as a catalyst for novel approaches.

His activities touched quite a variety of observational and theoretical matters. These ranged from meridian astronomy to space spectroscopy via ground-based photographic, photometric and spectroscopic collection of data, and from studies in stellar evolution to pioneering facets of astronomical information handling and applications of advanced statistical analysis. Time-consuming routine service for the benefit of his professional community should not be forgotten, be it at manning observing instruments or at shaping databases of world-wide usage.

Along the way, he became a prolific author of papers and reference books, both for a specialized audience and for the public at large. He also produced quite a number of edited volumes, including the prize-winning series Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy tackling many facets of the way astronomy-related activities are conducted round the world, the "sociology of astronomy". Towards the end of his professional life, Heck set up his own non-commercial publishing venture Venngeist.

Specialists in bibliography consider Heck as one of the most published authors in the history of astronomy.

He also devoted a good chunk of his time to historical research and to public outreach, some of it under a pen name. He used to say that these two components of his activities - digging into the past and retaining close contacts with the society at large - were complementary of the exploratory ones, be it at the level of the sociology of astronomy or of the evolution of astronomy communication.

This book remains as factual as possible. It has been intended essentially for historians of astronomy, but will also be usefully read by researchers, teachers, sociologists of science, research planners and strategists, as well as by students aiming at a career in astronomy or related space science.

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