Robert Jastrow

Robert Jastrow books and biography

Robert Jastrow

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Dr. Robert Jastrow (b. 1925) is an American Astronomer, physicist and cosmologist.



  • Attended Townsend Harris High School
  • Received his A.B., A.M and Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Columbia University in 1948
  • Joined NASA when it was formed in 1958
  • First chairman of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Committee, which established the scientific goals for the exploration of the moon during the Apollo lunar landings
  • Chief of the Theoretical Division at NASA (1958-61)
  • Founding director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in 1961. Served until his retirement from NASA in 1981
  • Professor of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College (1981-1992)
  • Professor of Geophysics at Columbia University
  • Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the George C. Marshall Institute
  • Director Emeritus of Mount Wilson Observatory and Hale Solar Laboratory
  • Member of the NASA Alumni Association

Views on controversial issues

Intelligent design

He has attracted criticism due to some of his statements which have been picked up and championed by the intelligent design movement to support their cause.

His expressed views on Creation are that although he is an "agnostic, and not a believer",[1] it seems to him that "the curtain drawn over the mystery of creation will never be raised by human efforts, at least in the foreseeable future"[1] due to "the circumstances of the big bang-the fiery holocaust that destroyed the record of the past".[1]

Moon landing conspiracy

When asked about his views on the Moon landing hoax, shortly after the Fox Network broadcast its first speculative documentary on the subject, Jastrow vehemently denied this possibility. He said that such a premise would have involved deceiving thousands of expertly trained NASA employees, including himself, and that he saw no such evidence of this during his work on the Apollo program or his 20 year directorship of NASA's Goddard Institute.


Open to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life in the universe, but skeptical of the proposed alien origin of UFO's due to a lack of strong physical evidence that would support this hypothesis.


  • NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement
  • Arthur S. Fleming Award for Outstanding Service in the U.S. Government.
  • Columbia University Medal of Excellence
  • Columbia Graduate Facilities Award to Distinguished Alumni
  • Doctor of Science degree (honorary) from Manhattan College

Selected television appearances

  • Hosted more than 100 CBS-TV network programs on space science
  • Special guest of NBC-TV with Wernher von Braun for the Apollo-Soyuz flights
  • Featured guest of the Today show on the 10th anniversary of the landing on the moon


"There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart whereas you would expect the judgements to come from the brain. Why? I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion in science, it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the universe, and every effect must have its cause, there is no first cause... This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control... Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proven that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, what cause produced the effect? Who or what put the matter and energy in the universe? Was the universe created out of nothing, or was it gathered together out of pre existing materials? And science cannot answer these questions".

Selected publications


  • Red Giants and White Dwarfs (1967), W. W. Norton & Company, 1990 3rd edition, paperback: ISBN 0-393-85004-8
  • Astronomy: Fundamentals & Frontiers (1972) John Wiley & Sons, 1984 4th edition: ISBN 0-471-89700-0, 1990 5th edition: ISBN 0-471-82795-9
  • Until the Sun Dies (1977), W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-06415-8
  • God And The Astronomers (1978), W. W. Norton & Company, 2000 2nd edition, paperback: ISBN 0-393-85006-4. The big bang theory and the argument from design. Second edition contains appendices with Roman Catholic and Jewish perspectives.
  • The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe (1981) Simon & Schuster hardcover: ISBN 0-671-43308-3, Touchstone 1983 paperback: ISBN 0-671-47068-X, Oxford Univ Press 1993 paperback: ISBN 88-435-3349-5. The evolution of life and the development of the human mind. The title is from the 1937–38 Gifford Lectures by Charles Sherrington: "It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns."
  • Journey to the Stars: Space Exploration—Tomorrow and Beyond (1990), Transworld Publishers, Ltd hardcover: ISBN 0-593-01908-3, Bantam paperback: ISBN 0-553-34909-0


  • Various articles on astronomy and space for The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Foreign Affairs, Commentary, Atlantic Monthly, and Scientific American.

Maternal biography

  • Marie Jastrow, Looking Back: The American Dream Through Immigrant Eyes, 1907-1918, (1986), W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-02348-6

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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