Catharine Garmany

Catharine "Katy" D. Garmany (born March 6, 1946) is an astronomer with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.[1] She holds a B.S. (astrophysics), 1966 from Indiana University; and a M.A. (astrophysics), 1968, and Ph.D. (astronomy), 1971, from the University of Virginia.[2] Catharine's main areas of research are massive stars, evolution and formation; astronomical education.[3]

Garmany served as board member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1998 to 2001, and then the vice president from 2001 to 2003.[1] She is most recognized in association with her work on star formation. In 1976, Garmany received the Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy from the American Astronomical Society. From 1976 to 1984, Garmany was a research associate at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA). Since 1981, Dr. Garmany has been a professor with in the Department of Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Colorado.[3] Dr. Garmany is the former chair of JILA and has experience teaching undergraduate, graduate, elementary, and general public audiences through her work with the University of Virginia, University of Colorado, and the Sommers-Bausch Observatory and Fiske Planetarium, on Colorado's campus. Garmany is also a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the International Planetarium Society.[3]

Catharine D. Garmany
Born March 6, 1946 (age 72)
Nationality American
Occupation Astronomer


Garmany's dissertation built upon three years of research on OB association III Cepheus at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. Dr. Garmany and her research team study O- and B-type stars (see OB star), the largest and hottest stars of the galaxy. These stars form in OB associations, which defy typical gravitational bounds. Dr. Garmany was quoted, "an OB association is the closest thing to nothing that is still something."[1] The significance of this research is associated with the star's potential to produce heavy elements when they explode. Garmany says that without OB stars, "there would be no planets like earth."[1]

Professional History

Starting 1971 and lasting through 1973, Garmany worked as a research associate for the department which awarded her doctorate degree, the University of Virginia's Department of Astronomy.[3] Garmany also taught for 3 semesters at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.[3] In 1975, Garmany moved to Colorado when she obtained an associate position researching with JILA and teaching general undergraduate and graduate level astronomy at the University of Colorado.

Garmany was selected as a fellow at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) at the University of Colorado in 1985. Then beginning in 1990 Garmany joined as a fellow of JILA of the University of Colorado, while maintaining her fellowship with CASA.[3] She also led as director of the Sommers-Bausch Observatory and Fiske Planetarium and as a research professor at the University of Colorado. As director of the observatory and planetarium, Garmany was tasked with overseeing graduate students and maintaining the mission of the facility: to support instruction, provide public education through shows and displays, and to reach out to public school groups. Garmany shared at this time that her truest belief was in "pass[ing] the magic on to other people, that is, the true pleasure of figuring something out, not necessarily for the first time ever, but the first time for themselves. This should be shared."[1]

From 2000 to 2003 Dr. Garmany taught as an associate professor at Columbia University and as director of the Astronomy Program with Biosphere 2, a science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona.[3] Some of Garmany's courses at Columbia included galactic and extragalactic astrophysics, observational astronomy, and astrobiology.[3]

Since 2004, Garmany has worked as Sr. Science Education Specialist in the Office of Education and Public Outreach for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.[3]

Personal History

Young Garmany showed an interest in astronomy as early as the fifth grade, while living with her family in the New York metropolitan area. According to Garmany, her father, a copy editor, brought home readings for Catharine and the stories which piqued her greatest interest were the works of Franklyn M. Branley, an award-winning children's author who wrote on astronomy. Garmany also enjoyed local visits to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City with her mother. Garmany was accepted to and attended the Bronx High School of Science. There Catharine met lifelong friends who would also pursue doctorates in chemistry and biology.[1]

In 1970 Garmany was married to George P. Garmany Jr., the two are now divorced. Garmany has two sons, Rick, born 1974, and Jeff, 1980.[1]

Garmany and the Annie J. Cannon Award

Garmany received the Annie J. Cannon Award in astronomy in 1976. This award was distinguished to Garmany for "promise in her field," according to the American Association of University Women. After receiving this award, Garmany was offered an associate position for postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado with the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, of which she would later became chair. Garmany articulated the impact of this award on her and for future female candidates, saying "Young women who enter science begin with low self-esteem. And the ones who leave science feel that they are not doing well enough, when, in fact, they are doing as well as the men."[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Shearer, ed. (1997). Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 117–121. ISBN 0313293031.
  2. ^ American Men & Women of Science. 3 (20th ed.). New Providence, New Jersey: R.R. Bowker. 1998. p. 53. ISBN 0835237761.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Catharine Garmany's profile, National Optical Astronomy Observatory

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