Conclusion and Acknowledgments
And Then There's This: 2011 Postscript
Nannielou Reier Hepburn Dieter Conklin
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.
Conklin’s professional achievements, remarkable in themselves, are even more impressive when considered in the context of her personal life. Her family background was unstable and she indicated that the physical sciences provided a beautiful, predictable security that stood in contrast to the complexities she found in human relationships. Gender was one unavoidable issue: In 1954, women made up just 3% of physicists and astronomers, and were almost always paid significantly less than men. Conklin faced both overt and covert prejudice against women scientists and noted the huge impact that strong female role models such as Helen Dodson and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin had on her confidence and determination. Two early marriages were troubled and left her trying to balance single parenting of her two deeply loved daughters, Amy and Mary, with the schedule and demands of research. In 1960 Conklin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, struggling to varying degrees thereafter with fatigue, disability and pain. She found happiness in her personal life upon marrying Garret Conklin in 1968. Realizing that the extensive travel required to do the observations and experiments that interested her would become increasingly difficult, Conklin took early retirement from Berkeley in fall 1977. She and her husband moved to Menorca, Spain, and later to Vermont and then Seattle. Conklin maintained contacts with colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Conklin continued to follow research in her area of interest, and published three final papers in 2009 (“Interstellar Clouds by Searchlight”), 2010 (“Sub-parsec Structure of Interstellar H2CO Clouds”), and April 2014 (“Study of Interstellar Molecular Clouds Using Formaldehyde Absorption”). The 2009 and 2010 publications are single author papers in the Astronomical Journal. The publication of 2014 appeared in the Astrophysical Journal with three co-authors. In 2001 Conklin wrote an essay about highlights of her work from 1946-1947, and in 2006 the National Radio Astronomy Observatory published her autobiography, a more detailed account of her personal and professional life.
Conklin is survived by two daughters, Amy Wray Hepburn of Burien, WA, Aleemna K. Wraye (Mary) of Austin, TX, and by five step-children, Carroll Conklin Eagles of Bedford, MA, Grace Conklin Bodle of Pt. Richmond, CA, Earle Conklin of Hayward, CA, Alice Conklin Margraf of Grass Valley, CA, and Mike Conklin of Danville, CA. Her husband, Garret Conklin, and a step-son, Garret Conklin Jr., predeceased her. . Her family is grateful for the wonderful care provided by Kelly Loveland of Lynwood, WA and her "team," which allowed Nan to continue to live independently after the death of her husband, Garret. Contributions in Nan's honor may be sent to Maria Mitchell Association, 4 Vestal St., Nantucket, MA 02554, and should specify "Nan Dieter Conklin and Maria Mitchell Observatory" in the memo line.