The Gift That Defined A Career 1

The ancient Greeks were the driving force behind the development of western astronomy and science, their philosophers learning from the work of others and adding their own interpretations and observations.

– Martyn Shuttleworth in Explorable: Think Outside the Box

On the front lawn of his family’s home on Tremont Avenue, in Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights neighborhood, a 12-year-old Greek-American boy focused a TASCO refracting telescope with a 60 mm lens and gazed at his future. Since the night of December 25, 1969, Artie P. Hatzes has found other worlds, traveled across this one, and settled in a place once closed to most westerners.

“My mom asked me in June what I really wanted for Christmas, ‘regardless the cost,’ he recalled. “Usually, she asked in November. What I really wanted was a set of drums. I was inspired by my oldest brother, the musician, and I especially admired Ginger Baker, the drummer of Cream. I would sit and listen to Cream albums for hours on end, beating on my lap the beats from Baker’s drum, and pretending. My mother was not too pleased with my brother’s music career. So, being a clever guy, I thought that, in order to maximize my chances of getting what I wanted, I ought to ask for a ‘respectable’ gift.”

“So I asked for a really good telescope. That was the year of the moon landing, and I was a real ‘space cadet,’ inspired by the space program. I wanted a good one that worked well, but these were too expensive. I knew that my mother could never afford it. The reason she asked all three sons this was: She decided to save up all her money and buy what we really wanted. It took her six months. (We were not rich; my parents worked for not much above minimum wage.) Bless her heart!”

“Well, come Christmas morning, I went to use the toilet early in the morning and saw a big package under the tree with my name on it. It was the last present I opened. My heart was beating so fast as I opened it. When I saw the telescope that would define my career, the very first thought that came to my mind: ‘I should have asked for the drums!’ Needless to say, I think I made the right decision.”

After graduation from Arlington Heights High School, Hatzes earned degrees from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California at Santa Cruz; completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin; and joined the staff of UT’s McDonald Observatory. He is in the vanguard of astronomers searching for – and finding – extra-solar planets. Since 2000, he has directed the Karl Schwarschild (Thuringia State) Observatory, and is a professor at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, in Germany – formerly within the German Democratic Republic.

He kept the TASCO.  “This year, I used it to observe a partial eclipse of the sun at my observatory,” Hatzes notes.