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CXC Biographies: Dr. Harvey Tananbaum
Former Director, Chandra X-ray Center
Harvey Tananbaum
CXC Director Harvey Tananbaum

(Photography by Lois Finley, Event Digital Photography, Inc.)

Dr. Tananbaum served as Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) at the Smithsonian Astrophsycial Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. from 1991-2014. The CXC is responsible for operating the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in orbit, for supporting the broad community of scientists who observe with Chandra, and for disseminating the Chandra science results to the public.

Dr. Tananbaum received his B. A. in physics from Yale University in 1964, and his Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 1968. He began his career as a Staff Scientist at American Science & Engineering, Inc., and has been an Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) since 1973. He directed SAO's High Energy Astrophysics Division from 1981 through 1993. Dr. Tananbaum has been involved with a number of space science missions in the high energy/X-ray field, serving as Project Scientist for the UHURU (SAS-A) X-ray Satellite (1969-1973), as Scientific Program Manager for the first imaging X-ray telescope, the HEAO-2/Einstein mission (1972-1981), and as Principal Investigator and Director of the Einstein Data Center (1981-1994). In 1976, he and Riccardo Giacconi led the team which proposed to NASA to initiate the study and design of a large X-ray telescope that was launched 23 years later, in 1999, as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. He was the team leader for SAO's Chandra mission study and mirror development efforts, and he organized and led the team which was selected competitively in 1991 to develop and operate the science center for the Chandra mission. Dr. Tananbaum has been working in X-ray astronomy since his graduate days at MIT. His thesis research was on a mysterious, highly variable cosmic x-ray source. Later, when he was project scientist for the Uhuru X-ray Satellite, observations by the satellite were instrumental in showing that this source - Cygnus X-1 - was powered by matter falling into a black hole. Dr. Tananbaum received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1980, the NASA Public Service Award in 1988, and the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership in 2000. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served on numerous NASA and National Research Council advisory committees and as a Vice-president of the American Astronomical Society.

In 2004, he was awarded the Bruno Rossi prize of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, along with Dr. Martin Weisskopf the Chandra Project Scientist, for "...vision, dedication, and leadership in the development, testing, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory." In 2005, Dr. Tananbaum was elected as a member to the National Academy of Science, considered one of the highest honors that can be awarded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.


CXC Images: Dr. Harvey Tananbaum

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