Director & Chief Executive Officer, Mount Wilson Institute, Pasadena, CA, 2002-2014
Regents' Professor Emeritus and CHARA Director Emeritus
Director Emeritus, Mount Wilson Observatory
Astronomical Activities & Research Interests:
In general, my research has focused on high-resolution interferometric imaging at optical and near-infrared wavelengths and determining the fundamental astrophysical properties (masses, luminosities, diameters, etc.) of stars.
My work in binary star speckle interferometry starting in 1975, just a few years after Antoine Labeyrie invented that technique, established speckle methods as the primary means for measuring orbital motions of resolved binary star systems. My article "Twenty Years of Seeing Double", published in the Nov 1996 issue of Sky and Telescope is a non-technical description of that program.
On the basis of the success of that binary star effort, I founded CHARA, the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy at GSU in 1983 and served as its director until 2015. CHARA operates the world's highest resolution telescope, actually an optical/near-infrared interferometric array of telescopes that is the most productive such facility ever built in the U.S.
My scientific publications, as first author or co-author, include some 200 refereed journal articles with an equal number of conference proceedings and abstracts of papers presented at meetings. Click here for a reasonably up-to-date copy of my curriculum vitae.
During 2002-2014, I served as CEO of the Mount Wilson Institute and Director of the historic Mount Wilson Observatory.
Fiction Writing - My novel Sunward Passage is available as an Amazon Kindle Book. It is an adventure/suspense tale in which the quest by astronomer Walker Ransom to solve the murder of an old colleague in Germany leads him to discover an impending global astronomical disaster. Walker's leads a small team of collaborators on an ever-twisting quest to understand and avert a potential catastrophe. The book has 4.6/5.0 stars by its reviewers. I have started a prequel to this story that will involve the kidnapping of a famous scientist at historic Mount Wilson Observatory in the 1930s.
Non-Fiction Writing - During the 2009 "Station Fire", which threatened destruction to Mount Wilson Observatory for more than a month, I wrote a widely read blog about the day-to-day events of the attempts to protect and save the Observatory. I subsequently published that in Kindle Book form as Diary of a Fire. That book is temporarily off line as I prepare a revision and new retrospective of that episode. For a view of the destruction of the fire in the Angeles National Forest, filmed by my wife as we drove with police escort from La Canada, CA to Mount Wilson, click here. I am also currently at work on a visitor's guide to Mount Wilson Observatory.
Biographer - Karel Hujer (1902-1988) was Guerry Professor of Astronomy at the University of Tennesse at Chattanooga and my mentor and first teacher of astronomy. I have prepared a memorial to him commemorating his life and work and am presently editing his lectures on the history and philosophy of science into long-overdue book form. I also inherited a large number of Karel's photographs including many large-format negatives. These include images he took during the 1920s and 30s at scientific meetings and in his extensive travels in America, India, Japan and elsewhere as well as images from his Yerkes Observatory post-doctoral fellowship during 1927-29. I am currently editing a collection of manuscripts into a book he intended to publish, but never did so, entitled Man's Unfolding Universe. Although mostly written during the period 1945-1975, its presentation of the history of science from a spiritual perspective make it timeless in insights that are conveyed in Karel's beautiful language. I hope to publish this as a Kindle book late this fall.
Genealogy - I serve on the Board of Directors for Clan McAlister of America and edit CMA's quarterly journal Mac-Alasdair Clan to which I have also contributed a number of articles including one on James Harvey McAlister (1836-1927), who was my greatgrandfather and a prominent builder in post-Civil War Nashville.
Personal Tidbits: I am the lucky guy who met Susan Johnson in an Art 111 class at the University of Chattanooga (not then yet UTC) in 1969 and married her a few years later. In 1980, we took our new daughter home from Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital on a glorious azalea-embellished day in early April. Little did we then know what an accomplished and brilliant attorney Merritt would become.
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal Mail - CHARA, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 3969, Atlanta, GA 30302
Office Location - 25 Park Place South, Room 620 (Sixth Floor)