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Walter Steiger

Walter Steiger was Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the Unversity of Hawai`i at Manoa, where he had served as the department chairman for a number of years. Since retiring from UHM in 1980, he served as the manager of the Science Center of the B.P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu until 1986, and from 1987 to 1992 as the site manager of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory on Mauna Kea. From 1982 to 1984 he served on the UH Board of Regents. Subsequently he was a lecturer in physics and astronomy at UH-Hilo.

Steiger received a B.S. in physics from MIT in 1948, after having served three years in the military. It was his military experience that brought him to Hawai`i and changed his life forever. After receiving an M.S. in physics at UH in 1950, further graduate work at the University of Cincinnati led to a Ph.D. in physics and an offer of an assistant profesorship at UH.

Although teaching duties were very heavy, the need for a research program at UH was clear. In an attempt to take advantage of Hawai`i’s natural assets, he proposed to look into the potential of an astronomical observatory on one of Hawai`i’s high mountains. This initiative led to the establishment in 1957 of an interim solar observatory on Oahu at Makapu`u Point and later, in 1961, a permanent facility on Haleakala

(Adapted from Walter’s own words on his website “Origins of Astronomy in Hawaii”)


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