Owen Jay Gingerich (March 24, 1930 - May 28, 2023)

Owen Gingerich was professor for astronomy and the history of astronomy at Harvard University; in 1992-93 he chaired Harvard's History of Science Department. His research included solar and stellar atmosphere astronomy, and concentrated on the history of astronomy where he did outstanding research; he has published numerous papers and books, and has served in several professional societies.

In the 1950s, Owen Gingerich did some research on Charles Messier's life and the Messier Catalog. In particular, he found notes by Messier on two additional Messier Objects, discovered by Pierre Méchain, which he added to the Messier Catalog: M108 (NGC 3556) and M109 (NGC 3992). M108 (NGC 3556) is generally accepted, while Gingerich's M109 (NGC 3992) has been found later to lack coincidence with Méchain's discovery; which was found (by Henk Bril as late as 2006) to be NGC 3953 (M109B) - but it is still possible that Messier had seen Gingerich's M109 (NGC 3992). Owen Gingerich also investigated the missing Messier Objects: He popularized the identifications of M47 and M48 previously done by T.F. Morris and Oswald Thomas. In particular, he concluded that M91 was probably a comet, and followed Helen B. Sawyer Hogg in that M102 was probably a duplication of M101. The first of these conclusions was later dismissed as W.C. Williams brought up evidence that M91 is probably NGC 4548, while the second is still open (M102 may be NGC 5866).

Honors for Owen Gingerich include a number of awards for his research and excellence in teaching, and in particular the naming of an asteroid after him: (2658) Gingerich = 1980 CK, discovered February 13, 1980 at Harvard Observatory, and identical with prediscovery sightings 1932 HH = 1959 JO = 1975 JK.



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