NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES
Papers of David S. Heeschen
Finding Aid to the Papers of David S. Heeschen. David S. Heeschen (1926-2012) was a consultant to Associated Universities, Inc., during the planning process for a national radio astronomy facility, and was the third National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) employee, beginning work on 1 July 1956, almost five months before the signing of AUI's formal contract with the National Science Foundation to organize and operate NRAO. Heeschen served as Chair of the NRAO Astronomy Department, then as Acting Director from 1961-1962, and as Director from 1962-1978.
Between Heeschen's arrival at NRAO and the end of his time as Director, NRAO grew from an idea and plan to a major world center for radio astronomy. Under his leadership, the 140 foot and 300 foot telescopes and the interferometer were completed in Green Bank, the 36 foot telescope was built in Tucson, and the Very Large Array in New Mexico was planned and designed. By the time he stepped down as Director to resume his own research, VLA construction was nearly finished, successful observations were being made using the completed portion of the array, and planning for the VLBA had begun.
Following his resignation as Director, Heeschen served briefly as Assistant Director for Tucson Operations, as Assistant Director for Socorro Operations, and as Acting Project Manager during the initial phases of work on the Green Bank Telescope. He retired from NRAO in December 1991, but continued to pursue his research interests and to advise on NRAO projects. Heeschen died on 13 April 2012.
These papers include material on the founding of NRAO and on NRAO and U.S. radio astronomy history, on Heeschen's work at Harvard University from 1953-1957 with the Radio Astronomy Project, and on his personal scientific research at Harvard and NRAO.
The papers of Dr. Heeschen in his capacities as Acting Director and as Director are included with Director's Office materials in the NRAO institutional records in the Archives.