Noel Swerdlow, a person of the ‘greatest scholars’ of the historical past of science, 1941-2021

Swerdlow was elected to the American Philosophical Modern society in 1988, and was two times appointed as a member of the Institute for Sophisticated Study. He was also a member of the American Astronomical Culture and the International Astronomical Union, expert societies which deliver jointly astronomers and other industry experts.

“He was a remarkably impartial brain, and he was willing to rethink assumptions people today had manufactured for a definitely prolonged time,” claimed Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam College Professor of Record at Princeton College, who was a college student in Swerdlow’s quite initially undergraduate class at UChicago and remained a lifelong buddy and colleague. “When he examined a text, he could envision his way into feasible interpretations that other folks just didn’t see.”

Swerdlow was also recognized for his enthusiasm and charisma in the classroom and as a mentor. “He was an incredible teacher and an extremely generous individual, to whom I owe additional debts than I can record,” stated Grafton, AB’71, AM’72, PhD’75. “If someone was passionate about the scholarship, Noel would put in immense quantities of time to make their do the job even further and much better. Scholars all around the environment, as perfectly as his individual students, learned an immense volume from him.”

Though he occupied an unconventional place in the astronomy office as its only historian, Swerdlow’s UChicago colleagues mentioned his existence affected how they believed.

“He was the consummate scholar,” mentioned Michael Turner, the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UChicago. “Noel was enormously respected in the Division of Astronomy. Chatting with him impressed on me a newfound appreciation for the heritage of science—a humility for its scope and a sense of progression, that it is a prolonged-phrase and staff hard work.”

“‘Rigorous inquiry’ only commences to explain Swerdlow’s do the job in the background of the actual sciences,” said Rocky Kolb, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Provider Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago and Swerdlow’s longtime colleague and close friend. “Whether the study of obscure Babylonian clay tablets or the properly-researched will work of Nicolas Copernicus, Swerdlow’s publications and papers introduced to light the underappreciated mathematical sophistication of historic astronomers. He was a fantastic impact on his colleagues in the Section of Astronomy, infusing us all with a further knowledge of our predecessors in the quest to have an understanding of the heavens.”


Swerdlow shared an appreciation for these ancient researchers with many colleagues in the astronomy department, but especially Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the famed astrophysicist regarded for his function on black holes. Swerdlow and Chandrasekhar co-authored numerous content articles on historical astronomers.

In addition to his scholarship, Swerdlow liked new music and was a frequent opera attendee and audio listener. “‘Encyclopedic’ doesn’t get started to do justice to his knowledge of performances and recordings of the good symphonies and operas of the 18th and 19th hundreds of years,” Grafton stated.

Just after retiring, he moved to California, where he continued investigate at Caltech as a going to associate professor in history from 2010 to 2018.

He is survived by his wife, Nadia Swerdlow son Dorian Swerdlow, daughter-in-law Fiona and granddaughter Julia and brother Lanny Swerdlow and spouse Victor.

A memorial is prepared facts will be introduced afterwards this slide.