Tuesday, July 31, 2007

in memoriam

I learned this morning of the death of two of my heroes.

E. Dorrit Hoffleit
(12 march 1907 - 9 April 2007)
Ingmar Bergman
(14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007)

I hope that these two brave, brilliant, passionate souls will move you just as they have moved me.

Dorrit was a lifelong astronomer. I was lucky enough to know her in the last years of her life-- though from her energy and vivacity I did not anticipate her leaving us so soon. Ha! So soon-- after her 100th birthday! She was one of the warmest and funniest people I have ever met. She was light on her feet and in her spirit. And what a hard worker-- she stayed on at Yale, as an astronomer and advisor until last year. And even then-- Dorrit truly LIVED among the stars.

a brief obituary from Yale:
On April 9th Dorrit Hoffleit passed away at her apartment following a brief illness. Dorrit's astronomical career spanned more than 75 years, the first 25 at Harvard and the following 50 plus years at Yale. At the time of her passing she had just celebrated her 100th birthday at a luncheon attended by 94 of her friends and colleagues (at which the accompanying photo was taken). Dorrit's research spanned a wide range of interests including meteors, spectroscopic parallaxes, variable stars, astrometry, providing research opportunities for young women at the Maria Mitchell Observatory, which she directed for 20 years, reporting on current astronomical research to the amateur community and the history of astronomy. Most observers will be familiar with her through the Bright Star Catalogue on which she labored painstakingly to ensure the accuracy of all entries. Dorrit had a major impact on those who collaborated with her or took the time to stop in her office to say hello. As one well-known astronomer put it, Dorrit is our bridge to the beginnings of modern stellar astronomy and one of the many things that makes her so wonderful is that no matter how glad you are to see her, she always leaves you feeling that she was even happier to see you. We will all miss her cheerful presence.
William van Altena
20 April 2007

I was introduced to Ingmar Bergman by my friend, Sam Gold. I sat in on his film class, "Film and Spirituality," and was ncredibly moved by what I saw and what I learned. I loved Bergman's autobiography, The Magic Lantern, as well as his Images. My favorite of his films are The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, Smiles of a Summer Night, and The Silence. I love the story of shooting the image pasted above from The Seventh Seal. The story goes that all the filming was done for the day when Bergman looked up and saw the sky over the hill where they were shooting. He had a vision and hurriedly assembled any remaining actors, p.a.s, whoever... and described the "dance of death." He danced about and told them to run up to the top of the hill. He got the shot off just as the Magic Hour passed. It was spontaneous but lives as one of his most iconic shots. Oh, I love his child-like playfulness and his auteur's unyielding commitment to his vision.


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