Noel Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the History of Science, died on Saturday, July 24. He was 79 years old.
Professor Swerdlow, a renowned scholar of the history of the mathematical and astronomical sciences, joined the History Department at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in 1968, and moved to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1982, where he remained until his retirement in 2010. Throughout his career, Professor Swerdlow demonstrated a deep commitment to studying the works and technical approaches of scientists from antiquity through the Renaissance, ultimately becoming one of the world's foremost experts on Copernicus and Ptolemy. Professor Swerdlow's works include a 1973 translation and exploration of Copernicus's early astronomical work, The Commentariolus; and Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus's De Revolutionibus (1984), a two-volume treatise co-written with Otto Neugebauer on mathematics in the works of Copernicus. That work earned him and Neugebauer the Pfizer Prize, the highest book award given by the History of Science Society. Professor Swerdlow also authored The Babylonian Theory of the Planets (1998). Several colleagues are planning to complete and publish his last work, The Renaissance of Astronomy in the Age of Humanism.
After retiring from the University of Chicago, Professor Swerdlow moved to California and served as a visiting associate professor in history at Caltech from 2010 to 2018.
Please find the University of Chicago News obituary for Professor Swerdlow here.
The Department of History extends its condolonces to Professor Swerdlow's family and friends, including his wife, Nadia, and their son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter.