Biography:Nan Dieter-Conklin

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Short description: American radio astronomer
Nan Dieter-Conklin
Photo of Dieter-Conklin in 1975 wearing a blue shirt
Dieter-Conklin in 1975
Nannielou Reier

1926 (1926)
Springfield, Illinois
Died (aged 88)
Other namesNannielou Reier Hepburn Dieter Conklin, Nannielou H. Dieter
Alma materGoucher College (B.A.)
Radcliffe College (Ph.D.)
Scientific career
FieldsRadio astronomy
InstitutionsU.S. National Geodetic Survey
Naval Research Laboratory
Air Force Research Laboratory
Radio Astronomy Laboratory

Nan Dieter-Conklin (1926 – November 16, 2014), also known as Nannielou Reier Hepburn Dieter Conklin, was an American radio astronomer.

Early life

Nannielou Reier was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Paul G. Reier.[1][2] She attended Goucher College[3] to study mathematics, but an astronomy course taught by Helen Dodson sparked her interest in that subject. Dieter spent summer internships at the Maria Mitchell Observatory, working under Margaret Harwood. She completed doctoral studies at Radcliffe College in 1958,[4] using her own radio astronomy data in her dissertation on Galaxy M33.[5] Her research involved the radio telescope at Harvard, and she took a Harvard course on variable stars from Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.[6][7] Astronomers Frank Drake and May Kaftan-Kassim were in Dieter's astronomy cohort at Harvard.[8]


After college Nan Dieter worked for the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. She was hired by the United States Naval Research Laboratory when it acquired a radio telescope. She published radio astronomy research[9][10] on solar flares[11] beginning in 1952,[7] and is credited as "the first US woman radio astronomer" based on that work (Ruby Payne-Scott, an Australian, is recognized as the first woman radio astronomer).[12][13] During her graduate work in Massachusetts, she was on the staff of the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories at Hanscom Field. In 1965, having completed her doctorate, she joined the staff of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.[6][14]

Dieter-Conklin retired from Berkeley for health reasons in 1977, but continued to research and publish as she was able.[13] Her last scholarly articles, all concerning the composition of interstellar clouds, were published in 2009,[15] 2010, and 2014.[6] She also published a memoir, Two Paths to Heaven's Gate, in 2006.[16][17]

She was interviewed and photographed along with Vera Rubin and Paris Pişmiş as women astronomers attending the American Astronomical Society conference in Arizona in 1963.[18] In 1964 she won the first Patricia Kayes Glass Award, at the Air Force Science and Engineering Symposium held at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.[19] She gave an oral history interview at Berkeley in 1977, looking back on her education and career.[8]

Personal life

Nan Dieter-Conklin was married to W. Peters Hepburn Jr. from 1950 to 1953, and to fellow scientist Carlisle L. Dieter. She had two daughters, born in 1951 (Amy Hepburn) and 1958 (Aleemna K. Wraye).[20] She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1960. She married her third husband, Garret Conklin, in 1968; she was widowed when he died in 2002. She died in Seattle in 2014, aged 88 years.[6][13]


  1. "3 Baltimoreans Win Study Aid". The Evening Sun: p. 19. May 17, 1957. 
  2. "Miss Reier Engaged". The Baltimore Sun: p. 38. July 4, 1948. 
  3. "15 Elected to Beta Unit at Goucher". The Evening Sun: p. 6. April 22, 1948. 
  4. "Astronomer to Lecture". The Press Democrat: p. 8. October 13, 1974. 
  5. Dieter, Nannielou H. (1957). "Observations of Neutral Hydrogen in M 33". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 69 (409): 356–357. doi:10.1086/127090. ISSN 0004-6280. Bibcode1957PASP...69..356D. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Ellen Bouton, Claire Hooker, and Miller Goss, "Nannielou Reier Hepburn Dieter Conklin" National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Howes, Ruth H.; Herzenberg, Caroline L. (2015-12-01) (in en). After the War: US Women in Physics. Morgan & Claypool Publishers. ISBN 9781681741581. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 David DeVorkin (1977), Oral history interview with Nan Dieter-Conklin. American Institute of Physics.
  9. Dieter, Nannielou H. (May 1964). "Neutral hydrogen near the north galactic pole". Astronomical Journal 69: 288–293. doi:10.1086/109270. Bibcode1964AJ.....69..288D.;view=1up;seq=3. 
  10. Murray, Bruce C.; Dieter, Nannielou H. (1960). Tangential Velocity Measurements - an Independent Approach to Geodesy. Defense Technical Information Center. 
  11. "Radio Blackouts Tied to Events on Sun's Surface". Lansing State Journal: p. 65. March 29, 1953. 
  12. Goss, M.; McGee, Richard (2009-09-24) (in en). Under the Radar: The First Woman in Radio Astronomy: Ruby Payne-Scott. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. xvii. ISBN 9783642031410. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Hamann, Emily (November 25, 2014). "A pioneer in her field, radio astronomer Nan Conklin dies at 88". 
  14. "2 New Galaxies Sighted". The San Francisco Examiner: p. 6. January 9, 1971. 
  15. Dieter-Conklin, Nan (March 2009). "Interstellar Clouds by Searchlight" (in en). The Astronomical Journal 137 (4): 3920–3921. doi:10.1088/0004-6256/137/4/3920. ISSN 1538-3881. Bibcode2009AJ....137.3920D. 
  16. Conklin, Nan Dieter, 1926- (2006). Two paths to heaven's gate. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (U.S.). [Charlottesville, Va.]: National Radio Astronomy Observatory. ISBN 097004111X. OCLC 70901414. 
  17. "Observatory Publishes Memoir of Pioneer Radio Astronomer". July 19, 2006. 
  18. Szekely, Susan (April 20, 1963). "Astronomers, Feminine Gender, Need Understanding Husbands". Tucson Daily Citizen: p. 35. 
  19. "Aerospace Awards Presented". San Antonio Express: p. 14. October 22, 1964. 
  20. Knox, John B. (August 8, 1961). "One of Few Radio Astronomers". The Daily Tribune: p. 10. 

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