Drawing of Observatory

Celebration of AAI's 60th Anniversary
By AAI President Gordon Bond
Delivered at the the Westwood Reception Hall in Garwood, New Jersey
November 15, 2009

It is my genuine pleasure to welcome you to this celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Amateur Astronomers Incorporated. I would like to commend the anniversary committee for putting together this wonderful event, and extend our thanks to the staff of The Westwood.

I consider myself to be something of a student of history, so I appreciate how such milestones offer us a chance to look back at where we've been and invite us to envision where we might go.

I thought it would be fun to take a brief look at what the world was like back in 1949.

  • The Second World War had been over for only four years.
  • Clyde Tombough had discovered Pluto just 19 years before.
  • Harry S. Truman was in the White House.
  • Karl Jansky had ushered in practical radio astronomy only 16 years earlier.
  • The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb, and communist forces invaded Beijing.
  • That May, Gerard Kuiper discovered Neptune's moon, Nereid.
  • The Federal Republic of Germany was formed, splitting that country for the next forty years.
  • The first scientific experiments in space were conducted three years earlier by the US using captured Nazi V2 rockets in suborbital flights.
  • The first Emmy Awards were broadcast on television, RCA announced the development of a color TV system, and Americans witnessed the debut of such shows as The Lone Ranger, Bozo the Clown, and Captain Video and His Video Rangers!
  • The phrase "Big Bang" wouldn't be coined for another year, applied derisively to the idea by Fred Hoyle.
  • Among the movies released that year, was "Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer" featuring Boris Karloff.
  • That January, the 200-inch Hale Telescope atop Mount Palomar saw first light as the largest such instrument in the world.

It's amazing to think how our world, our science, and our hobby have changed since then!

  • The Cold War is over, and the Soviet Union is defunct.
  • We've walked on the Moon, and we explore the planets.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of Germany is now a 20-year old memory.
  • The Hale is no longer the largest telescope, and we routinely explore the universe in a variety of wavelengths.
  • 1949 was the first year no black person was lynched in the United States, and, now we have the first African-American President.
  • And, according to some, Pluto is no longer a planet.

It's amazing too to think about how AAI has changed and grown and we will be hearing some of that history later this afternoon. But one thing above all has remained constant. AAI has always provided a place for those curious about their universe to gather and bear witness to its wonder.

Personally, I've formed friendships here that extend beyond Friday nights at Sperry. And even where I have found cause for disagreement, I still found cause for respect. At the end of the day, we are all volunteers, driven by shared passions and a spirit of service and fellowship. In a very real sense, we have each been one another's teachers and students.

Next February, I will have been an active member of AAI for a dozen years. And in that time I have learned a simple but powerful truth.

AAI is not stones and mortar. It is the volunteers who freeze and sweat in the domes to give the public a glimpse of their universe. AAI is not a respectable library or machine shop. It is the people who stand before the interested and the indifferent alike, and give talks in the hopes of inspiring even just a single mind. AAI isn't even two magnificent telescopes.

AAI is you and me. It is all who have come before and all who will follow.

We have much to be proud of and much to celebrate.

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