Arthur R. Upgren

Arthur R. Upgren

United States




I regret to inform you that Arthur R. Upgren, Jr. our former colleague and president of IAU Commission 24 (1985-88) and Chairman of the AAS Division of Dynamical Astronomy (1989-90) passed away on Saturday January 21, 2017 following an extended illness that ultimately lead to heart failure. We will miss his contributions to Astrometry, especially to the Connecticut CAM and his wry sense of humor.

Art had a lifelong interest in the structure of our Galaxy, the luminosity function of the nearby stars and stellar parallaxes. These interests were no doubt the result of having grown up in Minneapolis as a neighbor to Willem J. Luyten and his studies for the Ph.D. in Astronomy at Case-Western Reserve University. Following his degree he held research positions at Swarthmore College, the U.S. Naval Observatory and the University of Florida, where his interests in astrometry were furthered by interactions with Peter van de Kamp, Kai Strand and Heinrich Eichhorn, respectively. In 1966 Art accepted a faculty position at Wesleyan University where he ultimately became the Director of the Van Vleck Observatory and the John Monroe Van Vleck Professorship of Astronomy. Before going to Wesleyan he had also taught at the University of Maryland and George Washington University. Soon after arriving at Wesleyan, Dirk Brouwer, Director of the Yale University Observatory died and Art helped with teaching courses at Yale.

He was author or co-author of 285 publications in the astronomical literature, including
one which just appeared in 2016. In 1983 he organized and co-edited the very successful IAU Colloquium No. 76 entitled "The Nearby Stars and the Stellar Luminosity Function" as well as several other conferences dealing with astrometry and galactic structure. For several decades he directed NSF-funded studies that used Wesleyan’s 20-inch Clark refractor to determine trigonometric parallaxes of the nearby stars with a concentration on the late-type K-dwarfs discovered by Alexander Vyssotsky at the University of Virginia’s McCormick Observatory; he also collaborated in an international effort to understand systematic differences in trigonometric parallaxes between observatories through parallax observations of Hyades cluster members.

In addition to his work on galactic astronomy Art had a keen interest in protecting the night sky from light pollution. He wrote a well-reviewed popular book, entitled "The Turtle and the Stars" that discussed the influence of light pollution on the breeding habits of leatherback turtles. He was an active member of the International Dark Sky Association and a tireless advocate for intelligent lighting on the Wesleyan campus.

Art was an outstanding adviser to Wesleyan undergraduates and Masters candidates in Astronomy. Many of his students went on to earn their Ph.D.s at other institutions and pursued successful careers in Astronomy. His objective and detailed letters of recommendation were always instrumental in evaluating potential students for their Ph.D.s in Astronomy.

Art is survived by his wife, Joan, his daughter Amy and her husband Dave, and his two grandchildren, Max and Ella.

William van Altena, William Herbst, Edward Weiss and Phillip Lu

Past affiliation(s) within the IAU

  • Past President of Commission 24 Photographic Astrometry (1985-1988)
  • Past Vice-President of Commission 24 Photographic Astrometry (1982-1985)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 24 Photographic Astrometry (1988-1991)
  • Past Organizing Committee Member of Commission 24 Photographic Astrometry (1979-1982)
  • Past Member of Division A Fundamental Astronomy (until 2016)
  • Past Member of Division I Fundamental Astronomy
  • Past Member of Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science (until 2016)
  • Past Member of Division IV Stars
  • Past Member of Division VII Galactic System
  • Past Member of Division G Stars and Stellar Physics
  • Past Member of Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe (until 2016)
  • Past Member of Division XII Union-Wide Activities
  • Past Member of Commission 8 Astrometry
  • Past Member of Commission 24 Photographic Astrometry
  • Past Member of Commission 26 Double & Multiple Stars
  • Past Member of Commission 33 Structure & Dynamics of the Galactic System
  • Past Member of Commission 37 Star Clusters & Associations
  • Past Member of Commission 45 Stellar Classification
  • Past Member of Commission 50 Protection of Existing & Potential Observatory Sites
  • Past Member of Division A WG Astrometry by Small Ground-Based Telescopes

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