In theory, Astronomy should be a breeze. Casual scientists could float through it without bumping even a minor air pocket, and come out the other side with a smattering of general education--if "Rules Relating to College Studies" were the only rules.
But they aren't. A moral tradition has grown up in the Astronomy Department that blankets out all the breeziness and leaves less than a half-hearted eddy. Astronomy is one of the toughest majors in the college.
Even though they don't have to, concentrators spend days in the lab and nights in the observatory. Most of them pick a project like building a new kind of telescope and spend half their college life working on it.
No one has ever been an Astronomy major and a playboy at the same time. After the sophomore year, long hours of extra-curricular work run off a squeeze play against social life and outside interests.
"Rules Relating" wouldn't make it look so. Concentrators must take two courses in Physics, two courses in Mathematics, and two courses in Astronomy. Three of these can be the introductory courses--often taken for distribution.
And no extra courses are needed for honors.
Astronomy majors are morbidly absorbed in their field, and they don't mind the extra work. They all know every professor in the Department, and this personal contact makes tutorial unnecessary.
Big Names on Roster
The staff includes the most famous astronomers in the world: Harlow Shapley, Donald H. Menzel, Bart J. Bok, and Fred L. Whipple. Harvard's astronomy department is the center of the stargazing world, and is undoubtedly the best place in the world to learn the trade.
Astronomy 1 is the Department's bread-and-butter course. With little math and no prerequisites, the course is topnotch distribution but often child's play for the embryonic major. It is not required for concentration, and many students skip it.
Astronomy 3 is a basic course with heavy mathematics and detailed technicalities. In the upper levels, all of the Department's menu is intense and technical.
Most concentrators go on to graduate school. After that, it is usually easy to find doors open in teaching, and occassionally in laboratories. Then again, one ex-concentrator is now touring the country with a ballet troupe.