Awarded: April 2000
(Nov. 5, 1906 - Aug. 30, 2004)
Fred Whipple is the noted Harvard astronomer best known for his discoveries about the constitution and behavior of comets. Himself the discoverer of six comets, he coined the phrase “dirty snowball” to describe the physical composition of comets as collections of water, ice and other cosmic debris. In 1955, Whipple became the director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). He also crossed paths with many astronomical giants, including the late Carl Sagan, whom he once hired for the faculty of Harvard.