Astrobiology (general)

Steven Dick Named Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology at Kluge Center

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
May 1, 2013
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Steven Dick Named Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology at Kluge Center

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has named Steven J. Dick as the second Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. The chair is a joint project between the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Kluge Center.

Dick recently was the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He is an astronomer, author and historian who served as the chief historian for NASA from 2003 to 2009. Earlier, he was an astronomer and historian of science at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

“Steven Dick will deploy his long experience in the field to help define the key humanistic issues raised by astrobiology and to begin anticipating the human consequences, intended and unintended, of the search for life beyond Earth,” Billington said.

“The question of life elsewhere in the cosmos has captured the imagination of humankind throughout history,” said Ed Goolish, acting director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “As the Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Steven Dick will conduct a compelling investigation of the societal impact of the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe–bringing to this program his reputation as the premier historian and scholar on this question.”

Dick will be at the Kluge Center for one year, starting in November 2013. He will examine the historical impact of astrobiology. He will work both individually and with other scholars to determine systematically the critical issues and optimal approaches to studying the societal impact of the discovery of microbial or intelligent extraterrestrial life. His research will include studies in the Library’s extensive print and manuscript collections, and he aims to publish his findings for wider consumption at the end of his stay.

Some of Dick’s publications include “Discovery and Classification in Astronomy: Controversy and Consensus” (2013); “Many Worlds: The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications” (2000); and “The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science” (1999).

The astrobiology chair at the Kluge Center is named for Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, the late Kluge Center Scholars Council member, Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Blumberg was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the Hepatitis B virus and development of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B infection. He served as NASA Astrobiology Institute director from 1999 to 2002.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center, visit

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April 30, 2013

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