Noel Swerdlow, just one of the ‘greatest scholars’ of the record of science, 1941-2021

Swerdlow was elected to the American Philosophical Modern society in 1988, and was 2 times appointed as a member of the Institute for Sophisticated Research. He was also a member of the American Astronomical Culture and the Intercontinental Astronomical Union, experienced societies which bring alongside one another astronomers and other gurus.

“He was a very independent brain, and he was willing to rethink assumptions men and women had made for a really lengthy time,” claimed Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of Record at Princeton College, who was a pupil in Swerdlow’s pretty very first undergraduate course at UChicago and remained a lifelong buddy and colleague. “When he examined a text, he could envision his way into doable interpretations that other people today simply did not see.”

Swerdlow was also identified for his enthusiasm and charisma in the classroom and as a mentor. “He was an remarkable instructor and an incredibly generous person, to whom I owe far more money owed than I can record,” stated Grafton, AB’71, AM’72, PhD’75. “If somebody was passionate about the scholarship, Noel would set in immense amounts of time to make their get the job done even further and stronger. Students all around the entire world, as nicely as his personal students, uncovered an enormous amount from him.”

Though he occupied an unusual situation in the astronomy section as its only historian, Swerdlow’s UChicago colleagues reported his existence affected how they assumed.

“He was the consummate scholar,” explained Michael Turner, the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Services Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UChicago. “Noel was enormously highly regarded in the Office of Astronomy. Speaking with him impressed upon me a newfound appreciation for the background of science—a humility for its scope and a feeling of development, that it is a extensive-phrase and group work.”

“‘Rigorous inquiry’ only begins to explain Swerdlow’s do the job in the historical past of the exact sciences,” reported Rocky Kolb, Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Services Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the College of Chicago and Swerdlow’s longtime colleague and pal. “Whether the research of obscure Babylonian clay tablets or the nicely-researched operates of Nicolas Copernicus, Swerdlow’s guides and papers introduced to light the underappreciated mathematical sophistication of ancient astronomers. He was a great impact on his colleagues in the Department of Astronomy, infusing us all with a further being familiar with of our predecessors in the quest to fully grasp the heavens.”


Swerdlow shared an appreciation for these historic scientists with lots of colleagues in the astronomy office, but particularly Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the famed astrophysicist identified for his do the job on black holes. Swerdlow and Chandrasekhar co-authored many content on historic astronomers.

In addition to his scholarship, Swerdlow beloved songs and was a common opera attendee and songs listener. “‘Encyclopedic’ does not start off to do justice to his awareness of performances and recordings of the terrific symphonies and operas of the 18th and 19th hundreds of years,” Grafton reported.

Immediately after retiring, he moved to California, the place he ongoing analysis at Caltech as a checking out associate professor in background from 2010 to 2018.

He is survived by his wife, Nadia Swerdlow son Dorian Swerdlow, daughter-in-law Fiona and granddaughter Julia and brother Lanny Swerdlow and companion Victor.

A memorial is prepared aspects will be declared afterwards this tumble.