I was born in Chicago on Jan 10 1940, and always hated having a birthday so shortly after Christmas - never any summer play birthday presents. My brothers Kasimir, Eugene, Harold, and Raymond provided a large family and plenty of things to do. Of course I was supposed to be a girl, and was a disappointment from the day I was born. We were raised in a standard Chicago bungalow on the northwest side of the city, around Cicero and Diversey avenues. The neighborhood hosted blocks of houses and small factories.
I went to the Barry elementary school, and remember being smart enough to outsmart the intelligence exam given in second grade. In the part of the exam testing reading speed and comprehension, I was instructed to read a 3-paragraph selection, and on completion write the letter on the card held up by the tester, and then go on and answer questions about the content of the paragraphs. So when I was half-way through reading I sneakily looked up and memorized the letter, and when I finished reading I recorded the memorized letter, and continued normally to answer the questions on comprehension. That must have impressed them! I was double-promoted past third grade!
Because I learned so much from reading my older brothers' books, I did well in elementary school and gave the class address at commencement. At Kelvyn Park High School I was the 1957 Class Valedictorian and again gave the graduation speech. In our middle class industrial neighborhood I studied the technical subjects, like engineering drawing, architectural drafting, print shop, etc. We didn't have career counselling and college placement, and I was one of a very few to go on to college in our graduating class of 144.
I went on to Wright Junior College to get a basic education and was awarded an A.A. degree and was again class valedictorian at graduation. Along the way I was Math Student of the Year and took other honors, and professors there encouraged me to get over to the University of Chicago, where I got B.S. and M.S. degrees in Physics and PhD in Astrophysics.
As a boy I had been interested in airplanes and flying models with rubber-band motors, and became interested in astronomy at age 13. I went to many of the Chicago libraries and read all the astronomy books, but my most important support came at the Adler Planetarium, where I met other kids my own age, and we built our telescopes together with help and supervision of director Al Shatzel. Quite an extraordinary group, of the dozen of us I think that half, or 6 of us, went on to get PhD's in astronomy.
In graduate school I bought the 1960 Morgan for $1200, and went on to a post-doc position at CalTech, working on the absolute calibration of the astronomical magnitude scale with J.B. Oke. I bought the gullwing Mercedes for $4800 in 1968, and had a great time driving the two cars around southern California, as a member of two auto clubs. Then I was hired by Fred Whipple to come to the Harvard-Smithsonian Cambridge observatories to become director of the new 1.5m telescope program (I turned down an offer from Princeton after a winter visit to the campus).
Upon moving to New England I built the "really modern" A-frame house with electrical engineer Grant Snellen. I became interested in Japanese garden design in 1982, the year I married concert/opera mezzo soprano Jane Struss. I have developed interests in art and architecture, and own minor collections of both, together with all my old cars and motorcycles, as detailed separately on this homepage.
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