Dorrit Hoffleit's Centennial Year: 2006-2007

Long-time AAVSO member Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit was honored at Yale University last April at a symposium celebrating her Centennial Year, 2006-2007. The Symposium was organized by the faculty and staff of the Yale Astronomy Department, with many other of Dorrit's colleagues and students participating in the organizing committee.

Entitled "The Hoffleit Centennial: A Year of Celebration", the symposium featured two days of talks and poster presentations on topics that were as diverse as Dorrit Hoffleit's career itself. They included historical overviews of Hoffleit's career, of astronomy in the 20th Century, along with topics near and dear to Dorrit including astrometry, variable stars, education, and the Bright Star Catalogue. Astronomers and friends--many of whom were at one time Dorrit's students--came from near and far to hear historical papers on her career and contemporaries, and discussions of recent work in her fields of research.

Dorrit with
 the AAVSO
The AAVSO helps Dorrit celebrate her 100th Year at the Yale Symposium.

Dorrit joined the AAVSO way back in 1930--so it was appropriate that AAVSO Headquarters staff were also present at the occasion: Director Dr. Arne Henden, and postdoc scientist Dr. Matthew Templeton, each presented symposium papers; staffers Sara Beck (one of "Dorrit's Girls" of the Maria Mitchell Observatory) and Michael Saladyga exhibited the AAVSO's publications by and about Dorrit; and other AAVSO representatives present were Elizabeth Waagen, former President Dr. Lee Anne Willson, and Dr. Barbara Welther.

Dorrit signs
 a book
Dorrit signs a copy of her book, "Misfortunes as Blessings in Disguise."
Dorrit with her "Girls" of the Maria Mitchell Observatory.

Dr. Henden's talk on Dorrit's long connection with the AAVSO was illustrated with video clips from the AAVSO archives. The audience was delighted and somewhat awe-struck to see these vintage movies which showed Dorrit conversing, laughing, and just being Dorrit through the many years of AAVSO meetings. The archival footage not only highlighted the convivial professional-amateur relationships which the AAVSO has fostered since its beginning, it also showed how Dorrit herself moved so freely and engagingly between the two groups.

Dr. Templeton's talk about long-term changes in Mira variables emphasized that our knowledge of these changes is made possible only through their long-term monitoring by variable star observers. This is a topic Dr. Hoffleit covered in detail in her review of the History of Mira Stars in the Journal of the AAVSO.

Scientific and historical talks were as diverse as Dorrit's fields of research.
Guests enjoy the dinner banquet.

Following the second day of talks, the symposium ended with a reception and banquet in Dorrit's honor. During the banquet festivities, Dorrit was surprised with a video of greetings and tributes from her colleagues and friends, including touching testimonials by her fellow Yale faculty, the Astronomy Department staff, and current students at Yale. At the close of the evening, she was presented an album of photographic memories, and she cut into her "Dorrit Centennial Cake" to finish the banquet.

What a 
A full house of friends and colleagues help Dorrit celebrate.
100th celebratory cake
The "Dorrit Centennial Cake" ended the banquet on a sweet note.

The symposium was a wonderful summing-up of Dorrit's productive lifetime over much of the last Century in service to astronomy in general, and to variable stars in particular. From her days as a student and scientist at Harvard University, through her tenures at Yale and the Maria Mitchell Observatory, to her present "retirement" of 30 years as a very active Emeritus Research Astronomer at Yale University, Dorrit has remained a valued leader, colleague, and true friend of the AAVSO.

It was a privilege for us to have been able to be part of the Hoffleit Centennial Year Symposium. It was our opportunity to celebrate the great "Blessing" we have all been given in Dorrit's lifetime in astronomy, variable star research, and the AAVSO.

—Dr. Michael Saladyga and Dr. Matthew Templeton,
AAVSO Headquarters

Thank you to Elizabeth Waagen and Mike Mattei for supplying the photos.

Shop for specially priced AAVSO publications by Dorrit Hoffleit, including historical and scientific articles published by Dorrit in JAAVSO from 1972 to 2002.