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EAAS Chairman past recipient of Aidan P.Fitzgerald Medal

Sunday May 26th 2002

The Aidan P. Fitzgerald Memorial Medal is the prestigious award of the Irish Astronomical Association, and is named in memory of one of its leading members back in the 40's and 50's. It is presented not more than once per year for "Outstanding Service to the Association" to someone usually, but not necessarily in a Council post.
Aidan Fitzgerald was born in Limerick, Ireland and had a keen interest in astronomy since childhood. Later he bought telescopes and other equipment and set them up in an observatory in his back garden. He became a leading light in the Belfast Centre of the old Irish Astronomical Society, and later became Chairman. He was also on the editorial board of the Irish Astronomical Journal. By profession, he was a principal officer in the Northern Ireland Ministry of Health and Local Government, and had been awarded the O.B.E. He never married, and died suddenly in the summer of 1964 from a heart attack, just short of his retirement.
In June 1954, the planet Mars was closer to earth than it had been for several years, but the most ideal conditions for observation were from the southern hemisphere. Astronomers from all over the world co-operated to make observations of the planet and a committee was set up under the chairmanship of Professor Earl C. Slipher from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
Slipher was probably the greatest authority on Mars and was to observe and photograph the red planet from the Lamont-Hussey Observatory at Bloemfontein, South Africa (shown below), using the great 27-inch refractor, (now dismantled). Fitzgerald was invited to join him at the invitation of the National Geographic Society who sponsored the studies, which were to last some four months.

Above Fitzgerald At the 27" Refractor

Reproduced with permission of the IAA Council

As to the medal itself, it is tastefully minted in bronze gilt, and on the obverse shows the profile of the famous "South Refractor" at Dunsink Observatory outside Dublin, while the reverse has the recipients name and date engraved inside a laurel wreath.
It was first awarded in 1989 to Mr David Beesley, a long time Secretary of the IAS/IAA, and in 1999 was awarded to the current EAAS Chairman, John C.McConnell shown below proudly receiving the award from Dr Andy McCrea, (then President of the IAA) in 1999.


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