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Zirin, Harold (Astrophysicist)



  • Existence: 1929 - 2012


Background: Director, Big Bear Solar Observatory, 1980-97; chief astronomer, Big Bear Solar Observatory, 1970-80; Caltech astronomy professor, 1964-98; Caltech visiting associate, 1963; professor emeritus, 1998-.


Description: Harold Zirin was born in Boston, but grew up in the Bronx and in Bridgeport, CT. He entered Harvard College in 1946, where he received his AB in 1950, his AM in 1951 and his PhD in 1953 in astronomy, working with Bart Bok, Harlow Shapley, Armin Deutsch, Fred Whipple and Donald Menzel, and with Philip Morse at MIT. In 1952 he came to California to take a position briefly with the RAND Corporation. After a return to Harvard for two years, Zirin took a job in Boulder, Colorado at the High Altitude Observatory and began solar observing. Visits to Caltech led to a professorial appointment in 1964. Zirin became the director of Caltech's Big Bear Solar Observatory in 1970.

Zirin married to Mary Zirin, who taught Russian at Caltech from 1969 to 1973.


Collection Notes: Oral history, 1998: In this 82-page oral history with Shirley K. Cohen, Zirin recounts his early life and education in astronomy; his move westward, eventually to Caltech; the story of the building of the Big Bear Solar Observatory and its eventual closure; research, academic and political issues at Caltech, including grievances against him by several women, notably S. Martin.

Found in 11 Collections and/or Records:

Airtalk: The Caltech Edition

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1990-00229

Airtalk: The Caltech Edition

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1990-00230

AirTalk with Gary Lorden and Harold Zirin

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2018-02-01-000005

AirTalk with Gary Lorden and Harold Zirin, 1990-07-18

Scope and Contents From the Collection: The collection is divided according to the recording type: audio and video then ordered chronologically. Each recording includes an interview with either Caltech faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni, JPL scientists or administrators. It also includes features such as Caltech Almanac -a detailed look at some of the many interesting people, places and discoveries in Caltech’s history-, Caltech Calendar -a listing of upcoming public events on campus- and Caltech in the News....
Dates: 1990-07-18

H. Zirin Photographs

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1988-01064

Harold Zirin

 File — Box Z40: Series II
Identifier: Z40
Scope and Contents

HAROLD ZIRIN (1929-2012) was professor of astrophysics at Caltech from 1964 to 1998. In 1998 he became professor emeritus. For many years he was the director of the solar observatory at Big Bear.

See also: Oral history with Harold Zirin, 2002.

Dates: 19th century to present

Memorial Service

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2012-00209

Sun: Spots, Flares & Neutrinos

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00699

Additional filters:

Unprocessed Material 6
Archival Object 4
Digital Record 1
Astrophysics 4
AirTalk 3
Astronomy 3
Frontiers Of Science 1
Manuscript Collection 1
∨ more