Al Harper
P.I. (Principal Investigator) for the Live from the Stratosphere flights

Since my days as a graduate student at Rice University (in Houston), I have been doing research in experimental astrophysics, specializing in observations at far infrared wavelengths. I did my first research with a 12-inch diameter telescope mounted in a NASA Lear Jet aircraft. (The original Lear Jet telescope is now on the first floor of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum.) I have been an active user of the KAO since 1974.

I started reading about space travel in popular magazines and science fiction books I checked out of the public library in Atlanta, where I grew up. One of the first was Between Planets, by Robert A. Heinlein. It was a really interesting mixture of advent ure, interplanetary intrigue, space travel, physics and astronomy . One of the principal characters was a Venusian dragon named Sir Isaac Newton. My interest in astronomy also got a big boost from my third grade teacher, who introduced me to her son, who was an amateur astronomer. I built my first telescope with a mirror which he gave me.

I also had some very good teachers in high school who showed me how much fun science could be. One of the highlights of my high school physics course was measuring the mass of the electron using an electromagnet, balsa wood, and a tuning-eye tube from an FM radio. As much as I enjoy science, I had a tough time choosing between physics and English literature in college. There are so many interesting things to learn and think about! I am a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, playing the banjo and guitar, cross-country skiing, bicycling, and running (when my knees will let me!)

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