Kavli Institute For Theoretical Physics
The KITP Public Lecture Series

Citizen-Scientists and the Dawn of the Space Age

sponsored by Friends of KITP

Fifty years ago, Sputnik's launch started the Space Age. Teams of citizen-scientists, including teenagers, teachers, and long-time amateur astronomers, scanned the night sky in hopes of spotting it. As members of Moonwatch, a program initiated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1956, these amateur scientists contributed to what became the twentieth century's grandest science project. Largely forgotten today, Moonwatchers played a crucial role at the start of the Space Age. McCray places their story within the context of 1950s Cold War culture and suggests how the public's passion for science might be stimulated once again.

About the Speaker W. Patrick Mccray, a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializes in American science during the Cold War. He is also a researcher at UCSB's Center for Nanotechnology in Society. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1996. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Keep Watching the Skies: The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dawn of the Space Age" to be published by Princeton University Press. His other pub- lications include "Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology" (Harvard University Press, 2004) and "Glassmaking in Renaissance Venice: The Fragile Craft" (Ashgate Publishing, 1999).