AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 43. My Most Memorable AAS Meeting
Topical, Display, Tuesday, June 1, 1999, 10:00am-7:00pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[43.05] My First AAS Meeting:\\Bloomington and Ann Arbor, June 1950

D.E. Osterbrock (UCO/Lick Obs/UCSC)

I attended my first AAS meeting at the end of my first year as a graduate student at Yerkes Observatory, in the summer of 1950. Yerkes was the home base of the astronomy faculty, staff, and graduate students of the University of Chicago, and a large contingent went to this meeting at nearby Indiana University, and then on to the symposium immediately following it at the University of Michigan. In this paper I will describe these meetings so as to bring out the differences between this typical AAS meeting nearly half a century ago, and one today, as well as their similarities.

Briefly, the main differences resulted from the fact that astronomy was much smaller then, and less well funded. Membership in the AAS, attendance at its 1950 meeting, and the number of papers presented were all smaller by factors of roughly ten than now. Most astronomers paid their own expenses to meetings, or were only reimbursed for part of them by their universities.

Hence most meetings were held on university campuses. There were no registration fees, and the receptions, picnics, and outings were provided by the ``host" institution, which treated the visiting astronomers as its guests. The AAS had no paid staff. There were no parallel sessions nor poster papers. Members submitted only titles for their papers, most of them on stars; fewer on planets, asteroids and meteors; and fewer still on interstellar matter, gaseous nebulae, galaxies, or cosmology.

Research papers were the most important part of the meeting, but ``teachers' sessions," the equivalent of the education sessions of today, were part of the program too. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones were an important, unscheduled part of the meeting.

This paper will provide a narrative of these meetings, illustrated by photographs of groups, scenes, and astronomers.

If the author provided an email address or URL for general inquiries, it is a s follows:

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