AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 35 HAD III
Division Oral, Monday, January 5, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, Regency V

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[35.05] What Happened to the Amateurs After Professionalization? The Amateurization of Astronomy in Britain and the United States

T. R. Williams (Rice University)

For nearly two centuries, astronomers have felt the need for a journal in which to publish their results, a venue for meetings in which to discuss those results, and a means for standardizing techniques and coordinating programs within the discipline. These factors are typically the basis on which professional associations have been formed, but in many countries some form of an amateur organization now exists to serve these same purposes.

In two case studies, this paper will explore the different paths along which amateur organizations have developed in response to radically different dynamics in the professionalization of astronomy. In Britain, several failures preceded the successful formation of the British Astronomical Association (BAA). Within no more than a decade after its founding, the BAA’s specialized observing sections and credible journal were admired by professional and amateur astronomers alike, and served as a model for at least three failed attempts to form a similar organization in the United States. What emerged in the United States instead were six separate specialized observing associations, some of which now legitimately claim international status. This talk will consider how the radically different circumstances under which the professionalization of astronomy occurred in Britain and the United States influenced the amateurization of astronomy in both countries.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: trw@rice.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #5
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.