John Huchra
John Peter Huchra [pronounced HUCK-rah] (December 23, 1948 – October 8, 2010) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 and professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

. He was the Vice Provost
Provost (education)
A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada and Australia, the equivalent of a pro-vice-chancellor at some institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland....

 for Research Policy at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and a Professor of Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
The Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is one of the largest and most diverse astrophysical institutions in the world, where scientists carry out a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, earth and space sciences, and science education...

. He was also a former chair of the United States National Committee for the International Astronomical Union
International Astronomical Union
The International Astronomical Union IAU is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy...

. and past president of the American Astronomical Society
American Astronomical Society
The American Astronomical Society is an American society of professional astronomers and other interested individuals, headquartered in Washington, DC...


Huchra was born on December 23, 1948, in Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City, New Jersey
Jersey City is the seat of Hudson County, New Jersey, United States.Part of the New York metropolitan area, Jersey City lies between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay across from Lower Manhattan and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay...

, to a father who was a train conductor and a mother who was a housewife. He was raised in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey
Ridgefield Park, New Jersey
Ridgefield Park is a village in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. The population was 12,729 at the 2010 United States Census. Of 566 municipalities statewide, Ridgefield Park is only one of three with a village type of government in New Jersey, along with Loch Arbour and Ridgewood.The...

 and developed an interest in reading books about cosmology and science fiction. He was a member of the wrestling team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1970 with a major in physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. He went on to the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in astronomy. He took on a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1976 and remained there for the rest of his career.

Together with fellow astronomers Marc Aaronson
Marc Aaronson
Marc Aaronson was an American astronomer.-Education:Aaronson was educated at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a BSc in 1972. He completed his Ph.D. in 1977 at Harvard University with a dissertation on the near-infrared aperture photometry of galaxies...

 and Jeremy Mould
Jeremy Mould
Jeremy R. Mould is an Australian astronomer currently at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology ....

, Huchra announced that based on their analysis of the brightness and rotational speed of certain spiral galaxies
Spiral galaxy
A spiral galaxy is a certain kind of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in his 1936 work The Realm of the Nebulae and, as such, forms part of the Hubble sequence. Spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as...

 that the universe was nine billion years old, half the age that most astronomers had previously thought.

In 1986, Valérie de Lapparent, Margaret Geller
Margaret Geller
Margaret Joan Geller is an American astronomer and professor. She is a Senior Astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and has written numerous articles and produced several award-winning scientific short films....

 and Huchra published the surprisingly non-uniform distribution of galaxies at scales of several tens of megaparsecs from early results of the CfA Redshift Survey
CfA Redshift Survey
The Center for Astrophysics Redshift Survey was the first attempt to map the large-scale structure of the universe. It began in 1977 with the initial data collection completed in 1982...

. De Lapparent, Geller and Huchra described the galaxy distribution as apparently lying on the "surfaces of bubble-like structures". In 1989, using later results from their redshift survey
Redshift survey
In astronomy, a redshift survey, or galaxy survey, is a survey of a section of the sky to measure the redshift of astronomical objects. Using Hubble's law, the redshift can be used to calculate the distance of an object from Earth. By combining redshift with angular position data, a redshift...

, Geller and Huchra discovered the Great Wall
Great Wall (astronomy)
The Great Wall , sometimes specifically referred to as the CfA2 Great Wall, is one of the largest known super-structures in the Universe...

, a structure measuring 600 million light years in length and 250 million light years in width. This is the second largest known super-structure in the universe. Huchra is also the namesake of Huchra's Lens
Huchra's Lens
Huchra's lens is the lensing galaxy of the Einstein Cross ; it is also called ZW 2237+030 or QSO 2237+0305 G. It exhibits the phenomenon of gravitational lensing that was postulated by Albert Einstein when he realized that gravity would be able to bend light and thus could have lens-like effects....

, the gravitational lens
Gravitational lens
A gravitational lens refers to a distribution of matter between a distant source and an observer, that is capable of bending the light from the source, as it travels towards the observer...

ing galaxy in front of the Einstein Cross
Einstein Cross
The Einstein Cross or Q2237+030 or QSO 2237+0305 is a gravitationally lensed quasar that sits directly behind ZW 2237+030, Huchra's Lens...

A quasi-stellar radio source is a very energetic and distant active galactic nucleus. Quasars are extremely luminous and were first identified as being high redshift sources of electromagnetic energy, including radio waves and visible light, that were point-like, similar to stars, rather than...


External links

  • Huchra's page at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics site
  • AAS Officers
  • Obituary in the Boston Globe
  • Obituary in the New York Times
  • Huchra's papers, from ADS, sorted by citations
  • Last Word, 05/11/2010. BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

    . Matthew Bannister
    Matthew Bannister
    Richard Matthew Bannister is a British media executive and broadcaster. After attending King Edward VII School , he graduated in law at the University of Nottingham in 1978, and joined BBC Radio Nottingham as a trainee reporter and subsequently the presenter of its speech-based breakfast show,...

     on Ted Sorenson, Maurice Murphy
    Maurice Murphy
    Maurice Harrison Murphy MBE was a British musician who was Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 2007....

    , John Huchra and Ronnie Clayton
    Ronnie Clayton (footballer)
    Ronald "Ronnie" Clayton was an English footballer who made nearly 600 appearances in the Football League playing for Blackburn Rovers. He was capped 35 times for England between 1955 and 1960, although he failed to score....

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