Upgren Remembered for Protecting Night Sky from Light Pollution

Arthur Upgren in 1968. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Upgren in 1968. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Reinhold Upgren, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, died on Jan. 21, a month before his 84th birthday.

Upgren received his PhD from Case Western Reserve University before coming to Wesleyan as an assistant professor in 1966. He was the Director of the Van Vleck Observatory from 1973 to 1993. He held his endowed chair from 1982 until his retirement in 2000.

Upgren was an author or co-author of 285 publications in the astronomical literature, including one that appeared in 2016. His research interests were in the areas of parallax (distance measurement) of stars and galactic structure. For several decades, he directed an NSF-funded study that made use of the 20-inch Clark refractor on the Wesleyan campus to establish the first rung on the ladder of distances in the Universe.

Upgren friend Jim Gutmann, professor of earth and environmental sciences, emeritus, said, “Art was an avid reader, loved classical music and foreign travel, and could be counted on to provide explanations of many matters astrometric and meteorological.”

In addition to his work on galactic astronomy, Upgren had a keen interest in protecting the night sky from light pollution. He wrote a well-reviewed popular book titled The Turtle and the Stars that discussed the influence of light pollution on the breeding habits of leatherback turtles. He was an active member of the International Dark-Sky Association and a tireless advocate for intelligent lighting on the Wesleyan campus.

Arthur Upgren in 1987 at Wesleyan.. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Arthur Upgren in 1987 at Wesleyan. Upgren was director of the Van Vleck Observatory from 1973 to 1993. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Upgren is survived by his wife, Joan, his daughter Amy and her husband, and his two grandchildren, Max and Ella.

A memorial event will be planned for the future.