Remembering Gart Westerhout

Gart Westerhout

The University of Maryland lost one of its academic pioneers, Gart Westerhout, on October 15, 2012.  Dr. Westerhout was the first director (1962-1973) of the university’s Astronomy Program and oversaw the establishment of the university’s observatory, the first major optical laboratory in Maryland.  He later served as the Scientific Director of the U.S Naval Observatory, a position he held from 1977 until his retirement in 1993.  There he led the organization and expansion of a network of radio telescopes to measure the rotation of the Earth. He was also responsible for maintaining the nation’s Master Clock, a collection of approximately 30 atomic clocks that utilize vibrating atoms to measure time within one-billionth of a second and serve as the basis for timekeeping by civilians, the military, and business.

Westerhout gained international renown in the early 1950s when he helped developed the first detailed map of the spiral structure of the Milky Way galaxy and discovered new sources of radio waves in the galaxy, some of which now bear his name. In recognition of his lifetime achievements, Minor Planet 5105 was renamed Minor Planet Westerhout in 1991.

The University of Maryland Archives sends its condolences to the Westerhout family. Read the full obituary here.