Martin Harwit

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Martin Harwit
Born (1931-03-09) 9 March 1931 (age 88)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
AwardsBruce Medal (2007)
Scientific career
ThesisMeasurement of Fluctuations in Radiation from a Source in Thermal Equilibrium (1960)
Doctoral advisorWilliam Allis

Martin Harwit (born 9 March 1931) is a Czech-American astronomer, author, and was director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. from 1987 to 1995. He is known for his scientific work on Infrared astronomy, as a professor at Cornell University.[1]

Enola Gay controversy[edit]

In 1994 Harwit became embroiled in public debate when his work on the Enola Gay exhibit, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1945 Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was accused of being "revisionist history" for including Japanese accounts of the attack and photographs of the victims,[2] and for presenting an exhibit script that critics alleged "depicted the Japanese as victims of a United States motivated by vengeance."[3]

Two of the lines about the war in the Pacific became infamous:

For most Americans this war was fundamentally different than the one waged against Germany and Italy—it was a war of vengeance. For most Japanese, it was a war to defend their unique culture against Western imperialism.[4]

The immediately preceding two sentences did acknowledge that

in December 1941, Japan attacked US bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and launched other surprise assaults against Allied territories in the Pacific. Thus began a wider conflict marked by extreme bitterness.

Those lines, in turn, were immediately preceded by

Japanese expansionism was marked by naked aggression and extreme brutality. The slaughter of tens of thousands of Chinese in Nanking in 1937 shocked the world. Atrocities by Japanese troops included brutal mistreatment of civilians, forced laborers and prisoners of war, and biological experiments on human victims."[5]

The controversy led Harwit to resign as director of the National Air and Space Museum in May 1995.[6]


Named after him


  • In Search of the True Universe (2013)
  • Astrophysical Concepts (1st edition 1973, 4th edition 2006) ISBN 978-0-387-32943-7
  • Cosmic Discovery: The Search, Scope and Heritage of Astronomy (1981) ISBN 978-0-7108-0089-3
  • An Exhibit Denied: Lobbying the History of Enola Gay (1996) ISBN 978-0-387-94797-6


External links[edit]