Monday, April 29, 2013
Bok's research at Harvard involved mapping stars of the Milky Way galaxy. He also was involved with radio astronomy, and turned Harvard into a center for radio astronomy with the installation of Agassiz Station, which he engineered. Bok worked with his wife, Priscilla, who was also an astronomer. The pair wrote a popular book about the Milky Way that went through six printings. Bok is probably best remembered for his study of dark globular clouds. These globular clouds composed of hydrogen and dust range in mass between 2 and 50 solar masses and are light years across. Bok theorized that these clouds could be the site of stellar formation. Star formation occurs when gravity collapses a cloud of hydrogen gas so compactly that a fusion reaction begins, converting hydrogen into helium and releasing energy. Bok's prediction has been proven to be correct and consequently these dark globular clouds are called Bok globules.
Awards won by Bok during his career include the Bruce Medal, from Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Bok served as president of the American Astronomical Society from 1972-74. He and his wife also have a lunar crater and an asteroid named after them.
Bok died on August 5, 1983 of a heart attack.
Graham, J.A., Wade, C.M, and Price, R.M.; "Bart J. Bok: 1906-1983"; in Biographical Memiors; National Academy Press; 1994
Lada, C.J.; "Obituaries: Bart Bok"; Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1987)28:539
Interview of Bart J. Bok by David Devorkin on May 15, 1878; Retrieved from aip.org