Jeffrey Hoffman, Professor of the Practice in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, received a 2011 Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Wednesday, May 25.
The Centennial Medal celebrates the achievements of a select group of Harvard's most accomplished alumni; it is the highest honor that GSAS bestows.
Hoffman received his AB in astronomy from Amherst College and his PhD in astrophysics from Harvard in 1971. He was later a postdoc at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and a researcher at Leicester University in the U.K. and MIT's Center for Space Research. He was a NASA astronaut from 1978 to 1997, where he became the first astronaut to log 1,000 hours of space-flight time. Hoffman performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA's history and the first repair and rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Centennial Medal citation began: "To say that Jeffrey Hoffman has traveled far since his days as a graduate student at Harvard would be a gross understatement. To be somewhat more exact, he has traveled more than 21.5 million miles, as an astronaut on five Space Shuttle missions. Along the way he rescued one of astronomy's — and the world's — most important assets and brought alive the excitement of space exploration to several generations of impatiently earthbound students."
In August 2001, Hoffman joined the MIT faculty, where he currently teaches space systems design and space policy. He is also director of the Massachusetts Space Grant Alliance, responsible for statewide educational activities to increase the public's understanding of space and to attract students into aerospace careers.