Bart Bok

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Bart Bok
Born (1906-04-28)April 28, 1906
Died August 5, 1983(1983-08-05) (aged 77)
Nationality Dutch-American
Fields astronomy
Institutions Harvard University
Alma mater Leiden

Bart Jan Bok (28 April 1906 – 5 August 1983) was a Dutch-American astronomer.[1]

He was born in the Netherlands to Jan Bok and Gesina Annetta (née van der Lee) Bok,[2] but spent a good deal of his childhood days growing up in what was then known as the Dutch East Indies. He was educated at the Leiden and Groningen Universities. In 1929 he married fellow astronomer Dr. Priscilla Fairfield Bok, and for the remainder of their lives the two collaborated closely on their astronomical work. They had two children, Joyce and John.

From 1929 until 1957 he worked at Harvard University. He then worked as director of Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia for nine years, before returning to the United States as director of Steward Observatory. He became a US citizen in 1938.

In 1975 Bok coauthored the statement Objections to Astrology (The Humanist, 1975),[3] which was endorsed by 186 professional astronomers, astrophysicists, and other scientists, including nineteen winners of the Nobel Prize. The statement was published in The Humanist. This led to the formation of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), of which he was a founding Fellow.

The Caterpillar, a Bok Globule in the Carina Nebula. Picture by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Bart Bok was an exceedingly popular personality in the field of astronomy, noted for his affability and humor. The Asteroid 1983 Bok was named for him while he was still living. In the ceremony announcing the award, he thanked the IAU for giving him "a little plot of land that [I] can retire to and live on." He participated in or led several groups to view solar eclipses, including a trip to the eclipse near Bratsk in Siberia in July 1981. On this trip to the USSR he led the group on a side trip to Byurakan Observatory, meeting with the director, Victor Ambartsumian.

His last eclipse trip was to return to what he called his "spiritual home" of Java to view a totality that passed near the town of Salatiga in June 1983. The night before the eclipse he spoke of his deep and abiding affection for the Indonesian people and said "If you wish to know Indonesia, eat Indonesian food and listen to gamelan music." He also spoke of how much he had enjoyed sharing his love of astronomy with others over the years.

Bok died of a heart attack at his home in Tucson, Arizona a little more than a month after that final trip. His only regret was that he did not have great-grandchildren at the time of his death.


Bok crater
Named after him
  • Bart J Bok Postdoctoral Fellowship, given out by the Astronomy Department of the University of Arizona and Steward Observatory.
  • The Bok Prize is awarded annually by the Astronomical Society of Australia since 1989 to recognise outstanding research in astronomy by an Honours student or eligible Masters student at an Australian university.[4]



  1. ^ Heeschen, David S. (December 1983). "Bart J. Bok". Physics Today 36 (12): 73. doi:10.1063/1.2915407. 
  2. ^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ [1] Text of Objections to Astrology (accessed Feb. 17, 2013)
  4. ^ "The Bok Prize". The Astronomical Society of Australia Inc. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 

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