Arts and Sciences:
Arthur F. Davidsen, the astrophysicist who led Johns
Hopkins' enormously successful ventures into space with the
Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, has agreed to serve as interim
dean of the faculty of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and
Provost Steven Knapp, who has remained temporarily as Arts and Sciences dean since he was appointed provost earlier this year, said Davidsen will take on a significant portion of the dean's duties. Davidsen, a member of the Hopkins faculty for more than 20 years, will assume his new title Jan. 1 and remain in the position until a new dean of the school is appointed, Knapp said.
Davidsen, Knapp said, will concentrate on the internal affairs of the school, while Knapp continues to lead its portion of the Johns Hopkins Initiative fund-raising campaign and to manage its relations with other Hopkins divisions. The arrangement will give Knapp time to focus on his role as provost and on the search for his replacement as permanent dean.
"I have come to know Arthur Davidsen through his excellent service on the Homewood Academic Council, as well as his role as principal investigator on the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope project," Knapp said. "I have found him to be a wise and thoughtful colleague, with a profound commitment to excellence, and my impression has been confirmed by the many people with whom I consulted before selecting him for this interim appointment."
Davidsen said he was honored to be asked to assist in a time of transition to a new dean.
"As is true of any of the world's great universities, the faculty is at the heart of Johns Hopkins' greatness," Davidsen said. "It is a privilege for me to be able to serve the faculty of the Krieger School as interim dean of the faculty until their search committee identifies a successor to Steve Knapp."
Davidsen and his team in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are known worldwide for building and sending into space several telescopes that have helped further our understanding of the origins and development of the universe. His specialty is ultraviolet astronomy, the study of cosmic objects in a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where observations are especially difficult but highly productive.
Davidsen and colleagues at Hopkins in 1977 were the first to obtain the ultraviolet spectrum of an object outside the Milky Way galaxy. They also designed and built the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, sending it into space on shuttle missions in 1990 and 1995. Those flights have resulted in the publication of more than 100 scientific papers. Davidsen and two Hopkins co-authors, for instance, detailed in the journal Nature earlier this year important new findings concerning the primordial intergalactic medium, the diffuse gas created in the big bang that occupies the otherwise nearly empty space between the galaxies.
Davidsen joined the Hopkins faculty in 1975, the year he received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He was promoted to professor in 1980. He has received the prestigious Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society and is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In the early 1980s, Davidsen led the university's successful effort to bring to Baltimore the Space Telescope Science Institute, the science ground station for the Hubble Space Telescope. He also helped to develop Hubble's Faint Object Spectrograph and was the first chairman of the telescope's users committee.
Davidsen said his recently completed five-year term on the Homewood Academic Council, the principal academic governing body of the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, has given him a special appreciation for the excellence of the faculty across the Krieger School, in disciplines far different from his own.
He said he will continue his research while serving in the Dean's Office. A paper describing a new theory of the intergalactic medium is scheduled for publication next year, and Davidsen and his team are preparing a proposal for a new space mission.
Davidsen said he had not made any decision as to whether he will be a candidate for dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. "I'll cross that bridge when and if I come to it," he said.
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