NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES
Nan Dieter Conklin
"Nan Dieter Conklin: A Life in Science" is a Web resource in which Nannielou Hepburn Dieter Conklin describes her career as one of the earliest US women working in radio astronomy.
Dr. Conklin was a prominent figure in what was 50 years ago an entirely new science, radio astronomy. She was the first American woman whose PhD dissertation used radio astronomy data and, in 1952, was the first American woman to formally publish original research in the field. Over the course of her impressive career at Harvard and Berkeley, she pioneered studies of neutral hydrogen in nearby galaxies that are members of the local group and of the structure of the interstellar medium in the Milky Way and other galaxies. She also played a key role in early discoveries and investigations of interstellar masers. "Nan Dieter Conklin: A Life in Science" was written by Dr. Conklin in 2001, and covers highlights of her work from 1946-1977, beginning at the Maria Mitchell Observatory, continuing with her work at Naval Research Laboratory, her doctoral work at Harvard, and ending with her time at University of California Berkeley.
A more detailed treatment of her professional life is found in Conklin's book, "Two Paths to Heaven's Gate". In her candid memoir, Dr. Conklin discusses the evolution of her scientific work and her interactions with the other senior scientists of her day, writing with continuing fascination of discoveries both accidental and painstakingly accomplished. The book is also clear view of her personal life, from the considerable adversities she experienced -- the demands of single parenthood in the days before childcare, the multiple sclerosis with which she was diagnosed in 1960, just two years after receiving her doctorate -- to a celebration of her immensely happy third marriage to Garret Conklin and subsequent exuberant adventures in lifestyle and travel. Dr. Conklin tells of her personal and professional life with a clarity that is accessible to both scientists and non-scientists. Ordering information for the book is at at http://www.nrao.edu/archives/Conklin/bookorder.pdf
The Archives has retained both original and edited versions of the manuscript for Two Paths to Heaven's Gate, along with copies of reviews. The Archives also has Dr. Conklin's lab notebook recording M33 observations for her 1958 PhD thesis, Neutral Hydrogen in M33, found stored on the library shelves at Hat Creek Observatory and sent at her request to the NRAO Archives; Conklin's Harvard doctoral robe; a copy of John Charles Duncan: Astronomy: a Textbook, 4th ed., Harper, 1946, inscribed by Helen Dodson to Nannielou Reier on 31 March 1947; a 1993 Hat Creek commemorative paperweight (stored with the doctoral robe); a report of her 1973 exchange visit to the USSR; a transcript of the 1977 AIP-CHP oral history interview of her (interviewer: David DeVorkin); and an incomplete set of Hepburn/Dieter/Conklin reprints. Size of physical holdings: 1.0 linear feet plus one banker box containing the robe and paperweight.
Obituary for Dr. Conklin.
Related Material: See also the Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III, which include a 25 minute oral interview with Nan Dieter [Conklin] conducted in 1971.