Kingsley Wightman (February 13, 1916 – July 5, 2007) was a beloved, much respected astronomer at Oakland’s Chabot Observatory (since 2000, the Chabot Observatory and Science Center) from 1948 to 1994. After many years of acting as de facto director before there was such a position, Wightman also served officially as the institution’s director from 1976–89.
When officials wanted to close Chabot because of budget, Wightman lobbied to keep it open. He organized parents and teachers, and laid the groundwork for alternate funding. When they cut funding for his position, he worked without pay for 10 years. 2
Generations of Oaklanders who may recall little else of their school days will always remember field trips to the old Chabot Observatory, where this tall, unfailingly polite, lab-coat-clad character conducted his unforgettable demonstrations (usually involving at least one explosion), for 46 years. Before that, Mr. Wightman had been an elementary and junior high math and science teacher at Lowell Junior High School (now KIZMET Academy/West Oakland Middle School). He had a degree in Education from Berkeley.
Links and References
- Chabot Observatory & Science Center (negative scan)
- Kingsley Wightman -- loved science, Chabot observatory SFGate (short obit)
- Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering the Wonder by Timothy Ferris (wonderful tribute – start here)
- Kingsley Wightman (1916-2007) Tri-City Voice Newspaper (longer obit)
- New Horizons Jupiter Fly-by Kingsley W. Wightman 1916 - 2007 East Bay Astro
- Kingsley Wightman -- teacher SFGate
- Dictionary of Minor Planet Names by Lutz D. Schmadel (a minor planet, discovered in 1980, is named for him)
- Planetarium Projector Museum Observatory Central
- Chabot Space and Science Center and Eastbay Astronomical Society timeline The Eastbay Astronomical Society
- “Distant Stars”, a guitar piece by Henry Kaiser dedicated to Mr. Wightman (preview, but enough to get the idea)