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Astrophysicist Owen Gingerich to visit Newton, Bethel College

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Astrophysicist Owen Gingerich is missing a high school diploma. He hasn't lost it. He just never had one. When he visits Newton later this month, invited by Newton High School, he will receive an honorary diploma and speak to the high school graduates at the 7 p.m. commencement May 22 in Athletic Park. During his visit to the community, Gingerich, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., will present a book talk at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 21 in the Administration Building Chapel at Bethel College. Known for his work on the history of astronomy, Gingerich will speak about his new book "The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus" (Walker and Co., 2004). Admission is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be for sale.

Son of Melvin Gingerich, who taught at Bethel College from 1941 to 1947, Owen Gingerich was one of the campus kids. He attended the Newton schools and after his junior year, his father took a job at Goshen (Ind.) College and the family moved. At Goshen, Owen Gingerich began college without having completed high school.

Today Owen Gingerich is a leading authority on Johannes Kepler, the 17th century German astronomer, and on Nicholas Copernicus, the 16th century cosmologist who proposed the heliocentric system. He undertook a personal survey of first edition copies of Copernicus' book "De Revolutionibus" and has now seen 590 copies of the 16th century book in libraries in Europe, North America, China and Japan. Gingerich's annotated census of these books and account of his adventures tracking down these copies is recounted in "The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus."

Earlier this year Gingerich was awarded the 2004 Education Prize by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). He is a world traveler who has observed 12 total solar eclipses. He also has an asteroid named in his honor: (2658) Gingerich.

Mabee Observatory at Bethel College will be open from 9 to 10 p.m., May 21, weather permitting. Mabee Observatory is located on the fourth floor of Krehbiel Science Center and is accessible by elevator.


For some years Owen Gingerich served as consultant to the distinguished furniture designer Charles Eames, and he was an advisor for "Cosmic Voyage," an Imax film at the National Air and Space Museum. Gingerich loves to acquire rare astronomy books, and his collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century ephemerides--books that give day-by-day positions of the planets--is second only to that of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

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