Aden B. Meinel

Aden B. Meinel

OSA 1972 President and American astronomer Aden B. Meinel was born in Pasadena, Calif. in 1922. He received his A.B. from the University of California in 1947 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1949. His dissertation is entitled A Spectrographic Study of the Night Sky and Aurora in the Near Infrared.

Over the years his research interests included astrophysics, spectroscopy, upper atmospheric physics, glass technology, optical design, instrumentation, space systems and solar energy. His enduring legacy to optics and astronomy are his contributions to large telescope development and the founding of the University of Arizona’s Optical Sciences Center. He began his career working on California Institute of Technology’s rocket weaponry program during World War II.

After research stints for the Army and Air Force Meinel focused on large telescope design. Although Meinel encountered great resistance for a telescope with a 500-inch mirror, he felt that his idea to develop a large multi-mirror design was worth pursuing. Along the way Meinel directed the development of Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona and new telescopes at Steward Observatory. As a result of an agreement between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Arizona and federal funding, Meinel’s vision to create the multi-mirror telescope (MMT) became a reality at Mount Hopkins, a peak just south of Tucson, Ariz. The MMT design departed from convention with its six primary mirrors, computer control, and optical components.

Meinel retired in 1993 as a Distinguished Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  He later held the rank of professor emeritus of optical sciences at the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center.

Among the awards for his research contributions: the American Astronomical Society’s Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy, OSA’s Frederic Ives Medal/Quinn Endowment, and the George Van Biesbroeck Prize.

Meinel died on 2 October 2011 at the age of  88.