Académie Royale des Sciences,
des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
Palais des Académies
Rue Ducale 1
B-1000 Bruxelles
Telephone: (+32)(0) 2 550 22 11
Telefax:      (+32)(0) 2 550 22 05                                                                                                 

PRESS RELEASE                       

André HECK, 60, currently astronomer at Strasbourg Observatory (France), has been awarded the Paul and Marie Stroobant[1] Prize 2007 by the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium.


Created in 1950, the Stroobant prize is awarded every other year to a Belgian or French citizen who has authored the most remarkable astronomy-related work. The 2007 Academy's Stroobant Prize has been awarded to Heck for his impressive professional production and in particular for his pioneering series of volumes entitled "Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy (OSA)", initiated in Year 2000.


Born Belgian, Heck has been first researcher at the Liège, Belgium, Institute of Astrophysics before becoming in 1977 one of the founding members of the observatory set up in Spain by the European Space Agency (ESA) to exploit the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite [a joint venture with the US NASA and the UK SERC, now PPARC]. He served as Deputy and Acting IUE Observatory Director from 1981 to1983. Heck took up a position at Strasbourg Observatory in 1983 where he served as Director from 1988 to 1990.


Heck obtained his PhD in sciences from the University of Liège in 1975 and a DSc in 1986. The following year, he got a degree as Research Director from the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg. Unconventionally he also secured degrees in management and communication techniques.


Over his career, Heck moved successfully from field to field, both in observational and theoretical astronomy. He became a skilled observer with Schmidt telescopes (discovering a comet in 1973), spent innumerable nights carrying out photometric measurements (mainly in Chile) and pioneered new techniques of UV spectroscopy while being in charge of scientific operations on the IUE spacecraft (leading to a substantial increase of the satellite's useful life).

Beyond exploiting his own observations of quite a variety of astrophysical objects, Heck developed methodologies of various kinds: statistical parallaxes (galactic distance scale), multivariate data analysis (relationships between photometric and spectroscopic data), and more generally information handling and mining techniques applied to the large amounts of data collected by modern instruments and made available today via "virtual observatories".


Heck played a key role in getting Strasbourg astronomical Data Center (CDS) recognized as a world centre of excellence. He was also instrumental in catalyzing materializations and collaborations in the field of electronic publishing for astronomy.


Heck has organized numerous international conferences and is currently preparing another one to be held in June 2007 at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels on the "Future Professional Communication in Astronomy (and its impact on evaluation)". Heck has been himself an invited speaker at many meetings round the world. He is a prolific author, an editor of reference books and an active science communicator. Among his editorial production, his latest and successful volumes entitled Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy (OSA) (Kluwer/Springer) deserve a special mention. Interestingly Heck's opening chapter in Volume OSA 1 had reproduced – in a premonitory connection with the prize he just received – a world map of astronomy-related organizations drawn by Stroobant and published in 1907.

More details on Heck's activities (as well as contact elements, lists of publications, photographs, etc.) can be found on the web: , including a brief curriculum vitae .



                                                                                                           (Brussels, March 2007)  



Possible quotations:


Prof. Léo Houziaux, Permanent Secretary of the Belgian Royal Academy:

"The prize committee was impressed by Prof. Heck's scientific production and in particular by his important and pioneering publications on astronomy-related organizations."


Recipient André Heck:

"I am deeply honoured by this renowned prize awarded by an international jury. It recognizes the appropriateness of pioneering new astronomy-related fields, such as organizational, strategical and sociological issues. As the initiator and catalyser of the series Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy (OSA), I feel this recognition should be echoed over all contributors: the authors of some 150 chapters so far, the interviewees, as well as the grandees of astronomy who wrote the forewords to the volumes."



[1] Belgian Astronomer Paul Stroobant (1868-1936) directed the Royal Observatory in Brussels (1925-1936) and had been nominated Professor of Astronomy at Brussels University as early as 1896. He presided the "Classe des Sciences" of the Academy in 1931-1932.