The MAD Scientist Hall of Fame

Name: Philip Plait

Country of Residence: USA

Areas of Science: Astronomy


Biography: I am an astronomer working on one of the cameras installed on board the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997. I am working on calibrating (testing) the camera, and analyzing the actual obsevrations being made. I received my PhD in 1994 at the University of Virginia, studying Hubble data of a star that exploded in 1987. My work with HST has been a constant source of amazement for me. It's a huge thrill to see the data as it comes down from space, sometimes before anyone else has ever seen it.

I got started in astronomy when I was very young. My father, who is an engineer and has a passion for science and math, bought a small, inexpensive telescope when I was four or five. As soon as I saw Saturn through it I was hooked forever. The planet was fuzzy and yellow, but the rings were very clear and looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Ever since then I knew what I do when I grew up.

Through my opportunities to teach and my volunteer work with local science centers, I hope I have been able to convey at least some of that excitement of astronomy to people. I also maintain a web page which talks about misconceptions people have about astronomy (the North star is *not* the brightest star in the sky, comets don't flash across the sky, stars are not all white, etc), and also try to keep up with and correct the way astronomy is treated on television and in the movies.

The web page address is