FAQs

The goal of the Astronomy Genealogy Project (AstroGen) is to provide a database of all doctorates that have been granted for astronomy-related theses. It will contain the granting universities, the recipients, and their thesis titles with links to their academic ancestors and descendants. (In academic genealogy one's parent is one's thesis advisor.) We take our model to be the Mathematics Genealogy Project, whose director, Mitchel Keller, has been generous in advising the AstroGen Team.

AstroGen is a project of the Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). It was begun in 2013 by Joseph S. Tenn, at that time secretary-treasurer of HAD. He continues to direct the project, which is the work of the AstroGen Team and is hosted online by the AAS.

The data in AstroGen were collected by the AstroGen Team, mostly from online sources, but supplemented in some cases with information obtained from university libraries or personal inquiries. We apologize for any errors, which are inevitable in a project of this size. To submit additions and corrections,A please fill out the form on the Additions or Updates page.

We created AstroGen for two reasons. First, many scholars enjoy tracing their academic ancestors and descendants. Second, AstroGen will facilitate studies of the astronomical community by historians and sociologists of science. With information in the database, it is possible to compare numbers or careers of those earning astronomy-related doctorates for different countries, universities, or epochs. With a little more work, researchers can compare the numbers of people earning doctorates with research in different subfields, such as celestial mechanics, planetary astronomy, or X-ray astronomy.

Tenn, Joseph S. 2016, "Introducing AstroGen: The Astronomy Genealogy Project,” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 19, 298

Tenn, Joseph S. & Rots, Arnold H. 2020, “Introducing AstroGen Online,” American Astronomical Society Meeting #235, 118.06. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 52, No. 1

We welcome additions to this list.

One of the most difficult questions we faced was to decide who should be in the directory. We are including those whose doctoral theses ( dissertations) deal with the scientific study of anything that is or comes from outside the Earth, and the development of tools to facilitate such study. This includes all observational cosmology, but we only include theoretical cosmology theses if they include discussion of observations. At the other extreme, near Earth, we include theses that deal with anything more than 100 km above the surface. We include searches for dark matter in nature but not in accelerators. Regarding tools, we include the development of telescopes and their auxiliary equipment and software but not the development of planetary rovers. There are many grey areas where our decisions may seem arbitrary. They are.

We pay no attention to which department granted the degree. Departments change their names, merge, and split. We have found theses that satisfy our criteria in departments of Astronomy and Physics, of course, but also Aerospace Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Electrical Engineering, Geology, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Meteorology, Space Science, Statistics, and others. Note that, following the criteria listed in the paragraph above, we exclude theses on ethnoastronomy, archaeoastronomy, history of astronomy, and education in astronomy, even though degrees on such topics are occasionally awarded by Astronomy Departments.

Currently we only include those who completed doctorates with astronomy-related theses and their immediate advisors. We only list highest degrees (a person may have more than one), and we do not list habilitations.

Name

At the top of an astronomer's page, we use the full name to reduce the number of cases of two or more people with the same name. "Y. Zhang" has published more than ten scientific papers per day for many years. It is likely that no one knows how many scientists publish under that name. We still have a few duplicates, and the number will increase greatly when we enter the theses from east Asian countries. We distinguish between individuals with the same name (when we can!) with AstroGen assigned numbers. When a astronomer has used two or more different names, we title the page with the last-used name. Below that we list other names used, both past and present. We use ORCIDs or ISNIs, when available, to identify individuals unambiguously..

The name at the top of the page links to a web page that gives some indication of the astronomer's career if the astronomer is living. Home pages are preferred, but pages in such sources as LinkedIn are also welcome. The link is to an obituary if the astronomer is deceased and we can find an obituary. If a living astronomer has no home page but is listed in a directory, we link to that directory.

Dates

We list the years of birth and death for astronomers who are deceased. While we gather birth years of all that we come across, at present we do not post birth years of living astronomers.

Degree

We use "Ph.D." for all degrees equivalent to the modern Doctor of Philosophy degree as awarded in the United States. The actual degree may have a different title, which could be translated as Doctor of Science, Doctor of Physics, Doctor of Astronomy, or something else. A few universities award a Doctor of Philosophy degree but prefer a different abbreviation. In a few cases, we use "D.Sc." for the Doctor of Science degree where this is awarded for previous publications to distinguish it from the Ph.D. awarded by the same institution. We also distinguish Ed.D. for the small number of individuals who have received this degree for the equivalent of a Ph.D. thesis that meets the requirements described above.

A number of countries have a degree that is substantially equivalent to the Ph.D. and an additional degree which is awarded somewhat later for significant research and is used as a qualification for a university professorship or to supervise graduate students. We call the first degree a Ph.D. although it is called "Candidate of Science" in Russia, and was a "Doctorate of the 3rd Cycle" in France from 1954 to 1984. The second doctorate is often called a "Habilitation" or something similar (HDR in France). After much consideration, we have decided not to list this degree as it is usually awarded for past publications and rarely has an advisor. At present we are concentrating on the formative stage of a scientist's career.

Some people who did not earn a doctorate with an astronomy-related thesis are in AstroGen because they are academic advisors of those who did. We indicate that the advisor earned a doctorate with a non-astronomy-related thesis or had a bachelor's or master's degree as the highest degree earned or no degree. When an astronomer or advisor has earned a second or third doctorate in another field, we include it in AstroGen, but we do not compile details of the degrees in other fields.

Thesis

We give the title of the thesis in the language in which the thesis is written. In some cases this is not the title used by the university. Thus if the university uses the title in its own language but the thesis is in English, we use an English translation of the title. If the thesis is posted online, then we link to it, even though access to the online version may be limited, either to those affiliated with the university awarding the degree or to those affiliated with an institution with a subscription to ProQuest. If the thesis title is in a language other than English, we give a translation of the title as well. In some cases we still need a translator. We welcome volunteers.

Advisor(s)

This title, most commonly used in the United States, refers to the astronomer(s) who supervise(s) the research done for the degree. Equivalent titles in other countries include supervisor, guide, promotor, directeur, and Betreuer. Note that we use the word thesis throughout for the document submitted to meet a requirement for a doctorate, even though the official term is dissertation in the United States, where thesis is used for the document written for a master's degree.

We try to list the advisor(s) who actually supervised the research. We usually obtain this information from the acknowedgements in the thesis. In many cases we also list the "official" advisor(s). It is not uncommon for these to differ. This is the norm in the Netherlands, Germany, and some other countries, where the official promotor or Betreuer was long required to be a full professor, but much doctoral research was directed by junior faculty members. For the roughly two-thirds of theses that are available online (to ProQuest subscribers), we read the acknowledgements sections of the theses and use them to determine the advisors.

Mentor(s)

In recent years graduates have tended to thank more and more people in the acknowledgments sections of their theses. It sometimes seems that everyone the new Ph.D. ever had a conversation with is thanked. We have tried to be parsimonious in naming "mentors," restricting this term to those who have played a major role in the doctoral research. Often they are called such things as "de facto advisor" in the acknowledgements. Note that a person cannot be listed as both advisor and mentor for the same thesis.

On the astronomer page we list the most commonly used name (in English) of the university that granted the degree. It is the name used at the time the degree was awarded. This is linked to a page about the university. Note that universities frequently split, merge, close, or simply change their names, and some have very tangled histories. Note also that there are a few cases where English translation would be confusing.

Each currently operating university has its own page. Degrees awarded by its predecessors or universities that it has absorbed, or by the same university under an earlier name, are linked to the current page. This page provides the names of the university and its location.

In some countries, e.g., Russia, it is common for a graduate student to do all research at a research institution and have very little connection with the university that awards the degree. The student may even complete the thesis before deciding which university to submit it to. We indicate this by listing an "Institute", which might be a laboratory, observatory, or other research institution that is not affiliated with the university that awarded the degree. We do this when the degree is awarded by a university, but not when it is awarded by the institute itself.

Since 2013 the AstroGen Team has been collecting information about theses, nearly all of it online. The remainder has come from university libraries, either through correspondence with librarians or visits. Now that AstroGen is online, we look forward to others adding data. University departments are encouraged to submit information about their graduates, and librarians who have any spare time are encouraged as well. New (or old) graduates and their advisors are also encouraged to submit information about theses. To add an astronomer to the database, please go to the Additions page.

A project of this size is bound to have some errors. We apologize for them and encourage those with knowledge, especially the astronomers concerned, to submit additions or updates. To correct errors, please go to the Update page.

To add people who have earned doctorates with astronomy-related theses but are not currently in the database, please go to the Additions page.

In recent years, the number of Ph.D. astronomers has been increasing at a nearly exponential rate. Although we claim to be nearly complete for 25 countries, fully half of the theses entered to date have been submitted since the year 2002. The number of people working on AstroGen is small. We would be very happy to have more people help build AstroGen.
Join the AstroGen Team. Feel free to volunteer as much or as little time as you wish. We need people to enter theses from countries not yet complete, especially those in Asia. To volunteer, please indicate your interest on the contact form.