The Day We Found the Universe was awarded the 2010 Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize by the History of Science Society for best history-of-science book for a general audience. Traveling to the society's annual meeting, taking place in Montreal, I was able to say a few words at the award ceremony. This opportunity allowed me to thank the many historians who helped me in my popularization. They include Norriss Hetherington, Robert Smith, David DeVorkin, Owen Gingerich, Michael Hoskin, and the late Donald Osterbrock. I am grateful to the award committee--Kenneth Manning, Edward Larson, and Maria Portuondo--for choosing my book for this high honor.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the news that I also received the 2010 Klumpke-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. I had the opportunity to thank the society personally when I traveled to its annual meeting in Boulder, Colorado, in August 2010.
Greg Beatty, a freelance writer, runs a blog on adjunct faculty writers and interviewed me for one of his posts. You can catch it in his November 2009 entries at AdjunctNation.com.
I've had many inquiries about the cover of my latest book. It shows Einstein and company during a visit to the top of California's Mount Wilson on 29 January 1931. It was the one and only time Einstein made the trip. The group is standing in front of the dome of the observatory's historic 100-inch telescope, the instrument Edwin Hubble used to make his major discoveries.
Everyone wants to know, who are those other people? Here's the scoop (as far as I know it): The tall man right behind Einstein's hair and above the short guy in front of him is Hubble. The short guy is Walther Meyer, Einstein's assistant. The man in the hat, slightly leaning in the center, is astronomer Walter Adams, then head of the Mount Wilson Observatory. The stiff-looking man on the right with the distinguished chapeau is William Campbell, who was directing Lick Observatory at the time (Mount Wilson's competitor to the north).
For a while, I didn't know the identity of the white-haired gentleman, standing behind Campbell. But thanks to John Grula, librarian for the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the mystery man is now identified. According to Grula, the man is Arthur S. King, a staff member at Mount Wilson from 1908 to 1943. He headed the observatory’s physics laboratory, where he specialized in divining the spectral lines of elements at various temperatures (important in discerning the chemistry of the heavens). He also showed how magnetic fields can affect the spectral line patterns, which helped scientists reveal the strength of magnetic fields in sunspots. He died in 1957 at the age of 81.
Grula even has a guess as to who “Mr. Forehead” is, the man seen peeking behind King. The “rimmed glasses,” “healthy shock of combed-back dark hair,” and “short stature,” according to Grula, suggest it might be Milton Humason, Hubble’s observing partner in surveying the expanding universe in the 1930s. The problem is that Humason is not seen in any other pictures taken when Einstein visited the mountaintop. And in another picture of Humason and Hubble that I have seen, Humason is not that short; the top of his head comes up to about Hubble’s eye level. This man appears far smaller. So, one mystery remains.
I was happy to see that Vintage Books used the same cover for my paperback. I can't imagine any other depiction that captures the topic and the era so well.