Martha Hazen Obituary from Center for Astrophysics


From the Harvard Center for Astrophysics:

Dear Colleagues,

We are sad to report that Dr. Martha Hazen died on Dec. 23 after a brief battle with acute leukemia. She was 75.

Martha began working at the Harvard College Observatory in the early 1960s, studying variable stars, galaxies and planetary nebulae. This work immersed her in HCO's mammoth plate collection, which had been largely neglected since the early 1950s. As Curator of the collection, she began to reorganize the plates and gradually documented information that had been passed on orally earlier in the century, when the plates were well used. Martha sought to conserve a century of deteriorating logbook data which identifies each plate, and gradually consolidated location and instrumentation information for the nearly 100 telescopes used in making HCO's plate collection the world's largest. Without this foundation, the CfA's current and planned digitization program for the full plate collection would not be possible.

In the last 10 years, Martha worked in what she called "Forensic Astronomy." Nikolai Samus of Moscow's General Catalogue of Variable Stars asked her to research nearly 1200 "lost variables" all discovered at HCO but considered lost due to conflicting evidence on position or brightness. She painstakingly pored over the working notebooks of many of HCO's underappreciated researchers, mostly women, to locate markings on the original discovery plates, and provided the GCVS with a corrected position or identification for 1174 stars. Over her nearly 40 years of stewardship of the plate collection, Martha hosted and instructed countless astronomers worldwide, as well as both visiting and local students, in their use.

We also remember her for her many leadership roles in the astronomical community, both as a long-standing officer for the AAVSO, and as a busy advocate in securing a meaningful presence for women in astrophysics. Martha recently had Asteroid number 10,024 named after her by the Minor Planet Center here at the CfA in tribute to her 47-year career.

In her private life, Martha was dedicated to far-off travel, and to quilting. She leaves behind her husband, Bruce McHenry and her son, John Liller, her daughter, Hilary Ward, and five grandchildren. They will be holding a public memorial service on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. at Linden Ponds, 301 Linden Ponds Way, Hingham, MA. Condolence letters can be sent to that address, Apartment 318.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Martha Hazen '53 to: Mount Holyoke College Annual Fund, 50 College St., South Hadley, MA 01075-1485

With best regards,

Alison Doane, with Charles Alcock & Josh Grindlay

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